Opening 2017 Session, Non-Governmental Organization Committee Recommends Consultative Status for 21 Groups, Defers Action on 13 Others

Opening its regular session for 2017, the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations today recommended 21 organizations for special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, and deferred action on the status of 13 others.

The 19-member Committee vets applications submitted by non-governmental organizations (NGOs), recommending general, special or roster status on the basis of such criteria as the applicant’s mandate, governance and financial regime. Organizations enjoying general and special status can attend meetings of the Council and issue statements, while those with general status can also speak during meetings and propose agenda items. Organizations with roster status can only attend meetings.

At the start of the meeting, the Committee adopted its agenda (document E/C.2/2017/1) and programme of work. It re-elected by acclamation Jorge Dotta (Uruguay), on behalf of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States as its Chair; and Ceren Hande Ozgur (Turkey), on behalf of the Western European and other States Group. It postponed the election of its remaining Vice-Chairs.

Navid Hanif, Director of the Office for Economic and Social Council Support and Coordination in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said among the critical issues on the Committee’s agenda was the timely realization of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Widely acknowledged that the 2030 Agenda could only be achieved through a broad range of partnerships, including with civil society, the Committee played a critical role in opening the doors to them. Civil society’s interest to be part of the 2030 Agenda process could be seen by the exponential growth, with new applications rising to 747 in 2016 from 143 in 2009.

However, he went on to say, budget constraints had significantly affected the capacity of the Office for Economic and Social Council Support and Coordination. The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) had approved then withdrawn temporary resources, leaving the NGO Branch severely strained to keep pace with the growth in its work programme. But, we now seem to have finally reached our limit, he said. We simply cannot absorb the inflated workload and guarantee the delivery of the full complement of applications and quadrennial reports. It also means that there will be a backlog in the submission of applications to the Committee resulting in inordinate delays for NGOs in obtaining consultative status.

Reiterating the Committee’s important work, he said it was in the United Nations larger interest to ensure expeditious conclusions and decisions on NGO applicants, particularly in the context of the 2030 Agenda and the need to forge partnerships with civil society in the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Mr. Dotta echoed that message, saying the adoption of the 2030 Agenda had provided a new impetus for the engagement of civil society representatives in the United Nations work in economic and social fields. The scope of the work was large, with record numbers of applications, he said, emphasizing that he would do his utmost to ensure efficiency in the Committee’s efforts.

In 2017, the Committee would consider 289 new applications, in addition to 235 applications deferred from previous sessions, 360 quadrennial reports of NGOs in general and special consultative status and 90 quadrennial reports deferred from earlier sessions. The Committee also considered a special report contained in a letter by the Permanent Mission of Turkey.

Marc-Andre Dorel, Acting Chief of the Non-Governmental Organization Branch of the Office for Economic and Social Council Support and Coordination, drawing attention to the large number of applications, pledged to provide any assistance required during the session.

The Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations will meet again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 31 January, to continue its session, which runs from 30 January to 8 February.

General Statements

During a discussion on whether a member of civil society could make a statement before new applications were considered, the Committee could not reach a consensus. Representatives, among them those from the United Kingdom, United States, Greece and the European Union, believed there was value to hear civil society members speak before new applications were considered.

Other Committee members, including those from India and the Russian Federation, disagreed, with China’s representative saying, we just don’t have the time.

ALEXANDER LOMAIA, of the Secretariat, pointed out that there was an allocated time at the end of each meeting, which could provide an appropriate opportunity for civil society representatives to make a statement.

Special Reports

CEREN HANDE OZGAR (Turkey) said a letter dated 23 January 2017 had been circulated among Committee members, requesting the withdrawal of consultative status of three organizations: Kimse Yok Mu Dayanisma ve Yardimlasma Dernegi; Gazeteciler ve Yazarlar Vakfi; and Turkiye Isadamlari ve Sanayciler Konfederasyonu. Those organizations had been found to have had links with the Fetullahist Terrorist Organization, which had staged a failed coup attempt on 15 July against the constitutional order in Turkey. The Turkish Grand National Assembly had approved a law on 23 July 2016 that organizations had been dissolved. Hence, the basis of their consultative status had ceased to exist.

Representatives of Azerbaijan, India, Pakistan, Burundi, China, Sudan and Venezuela supported the proposal.

The representative of the United States requested more information and a response from the NGOs before the discussion continued.

The Committee then decided against the United States’ proposal of postponing action on recommending to the Economic and Social Council the withdrawal of consultative status of the three above-mentioned NGOs, with 2 in favour (Israel, United States) to 14 against, with 2 abstentions (Russian Federation, Uruguay) and 1 absent (Greece).

The representative of Cuba said that in the future, there should be clarifications on rules of procedure.

The representative of Nicaragua expressed concern about the vote, adding her support for Turkey’s request.

The representative of Azerbaijan asked for clarification on the vote at hand.

The Committee then took action on the request that had been proposed by Turkey to recommend the withdrawal of consultative status of the three above-mentioned NGOs.

The representative of the United States asked for separate votes on each NGO.

The representative of Sudan said the request was for withdrawing status for all three, together.

The Committee then decided to recommend the withdrawal of consultative status of Kimse Yok Mu, with 16 in favour to none against, with 2 abstentions (United States, Uruguay) and 1 absent (Israel).

The representative of the United States expressed concern about a crackdown on civil society groups.

The Committee then took up consideration of the request to recommend the withdrawal of consultative status from the Journalists and Writers Foundation, which was listed in Turkey’s request as Gazeteciler ve Yazarlar Vakfi.

The representative of the United States said that NGO was operational. It was based and operated in New York, in the United States.

The representative of Turkey said consultative status had been granted to Gazeteciler ve Yazarlar Vakfi, which could be found in the list of NGOs with consultative status with the Council, contained in document E/2015/INF/5.

A representative of the Secretariat noted a discrepancy in the United Nations database with the name of the organization. He further noted that the official decision of the Council prevailed on whether or not to withdraw consultative status.

The Committee then decided, by a vote of 16 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), to recommend to the Economic and Social Council the withdrawal of consultative status of Gazeteciler ve Yazarlar Vakfi/Journalists and Writers Foundation.

The Committee then took action on the Turkiye Isadamlari ve Sanayciler Konfederasyonu.

The representative of the United States reiterated its grave concern on crackdowns on NGOs. Because the NGO in question did not exist, she said her delegation would abstain from voting.

The Committee then agreed to recommend the withdrawal of consultative status from Turkiye Isadamlari ve Sanayciler Konfederasyonu, by a vote of 16 in favour to none against, with 2 abstentions (United States, Uruguay) and 1 absent (Israel).

A representative of the Secretariat provided clarification on rules of withdrawing status of an NGO, citing article 56 of resolution 1996/31, which stated that before losing status, an NGO must be consulted on the proposed decision and have the opportunity to speak before the Committee.

A representative of the Secretariat said the next steps would be to provide reasons in writing for the Committee’s decision.

The representative of Turkey said the case at hand concerned organizations that were no longer in existence. Therefore, the reasoning did not apply to the current situation.

The representative of the United States said the provisions of Article 56 applied to the situation at hand.

The representative of India said a perspective was needed because the decision of the Committee to withdraw status was based on the fact that the organizations did not exist.

Mr. DOTTA said Article 56 could not be ignored.

The representative of India asked that if the Secretariat would communicate with the NGOs, to whom would they address the communication.

A representative of the Secretariat said it would use the names and addresses in the database.

The representative of Pakistan asked for clarification on the issue.

The representative of Turkey reiterated that the decision taken was based on the fact that the organizations no longer existed. Other articles in the resolution, Article 15, for instance, that said the withdrawal of consultative status and the decisions on the matter were the prerogative of Member States.

A representative of the Secretariat said ultimately, the Economic and Social Council decided on those matters.

The representative of India said a letter would be written by the Secretariat to an address that no longer existed. What Turkey’s delegate had pointed out, he said, was that the NGO Committee should decide on a recommendation and the Council should then take a decision on the matter. There was no reason to write to a non-existing entity. Nowhere in resolution 1996/31 did it address this particular situation. As such, the Committee must decide how to go forward.

The representative of Azerbaijan said in a similar case involving an NGO in his country, the status had been immediately withdrawn.

The representative of the United States reiterated that the Committee’s role was to make a recommendation, with the Council having to make a decision. Applying resolution 1996/31 was relevant to the decisions facing the Committee today and must be followed through.

The representative of China said the Committee had already made a decision on the withdrawal of status for the three organizations based on the allegations of the delegation of Turkey. China respected resolution 1996/31, but a decision had already been made, he said, agreeing with India’s proposal.

The representative of Cuba said the situation was marked by a legal vacuum with regard to organizations that ceased to exist. Therefore, he expressed concerns about to whom a letter about consultative status could be addressed. Indeed, one of the organizations was operating in the United States. However, the question remained about who should be addressed.

Mr. DOTTA said if there was a legal vacuum, the Committee should find a way to proceed.

The representative of the United States reiterated that the decision was to proceed to decide whether or not to recommend the withdrawal of consultative status. There was no legal vacuum, he said. The action of recommending withdrawal of status, in fact, treated the concerned organization as an NGO.

The representative of Turkey proposed that the issue would be put to a vote by the Committee, particularly that Article 56 of resolution 1996/31 did not apply to the current situations because the NGOs did not, in fact, exist.

The representative of the United States said such a proposal would, in fact, have a subsidiary body override the role of the parent body. Such a vote would be beyond the competence of the Committee, he said.

The representative of Turkey asked whether the article in question gave authority to the Committee to make such decisions.

The Committee resumed consideration of Turkey’s proposal after a five-minute-long suspension.

The representative of Turkey said her proposal was a request that delegations voted in favour of deciding that the Committee could not contact the three organizations that had ceased to exist.

The representative of the United States said the proposal was inconsistent with Article 56. He moved for a decision to be taken that the Committee lacked the competence to decide on the proposal by Turkey.

The Committee then rejected the United States proposal, by a vote of 2 in favour (Israel, United States) to 14 against, with 1 abstention (Uruguay) and 2 absent (Greece, Guinea).

Taking up Turkey’s proposal, the Committee voted by 13 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 2 abstentions (Russian Federation, Uruguay) and 2 absent (Greece, Guinea).

The representative of Venezuela, speaking in explanation of position, said his delegation had voted, but fully supported resolution 1996/31. If NGOs maintained their legal status, Article 56 of that resolution could be applied.

Special Consultative Status

The Committee recommended that the Economic and Social Council grant special consultative status to the following nine organizations:

Association des Femmes pour la Paix et Encadrement des Familles (AFPEFAM) (Cameroon);

African Development Assistance Consult (Democratic Republic of the Congo);

African Green Foundation International (Nigeria);

African Woman and Child Feature Service (Kenya);

Agence de Developpement Economique et Social (Chad);

Agro Professional Care Foundation-Yola (Nigeria);

Al Baraem Association for Charitable Work (Lebanon);

Ashiana Collective Development Council (Pakistan);

Association Gabonaise pour les Nations Unies (AGNU) (Gabon).

The Committee postponed consideration of the following six organizations:

AMPHTS (Syria) � as the representative of the United States asked for financial details.

Action pour la promotion du developpement (Congo) � as the representative of South Africa asked for disaggregated data and details on funding.

African Women Chartered Accountants Forum NPC (South Africa) � as the representative of South Africa asked for details on funding sources.

Association Marocaine de Planification Familiale (Morocco) � as the representative of Nicaragua asked who funded the organization.

Association M’zab prevention routiAre et developpement (Morocco) � as the representative of Iran asked for further explanation of its activities.

Association Nationale des Echanges Entre Jeunes (Algeria) � as the representative of Nicaragua asked for details on funding sources.

Interactive Discussion

During a question-and-answer session this afternoon, NGO representatives faced questions posed by the Committee.

A representative of the organization United Zo Organization (USA) offered to answer any questions Committee members might have.

The representative of India asked for details on activities in India.

The representative of United Zo Organization (USA) said his group worked with, but were not affiliated with, organizations in India and Malaysia.

The Committee then granted special consultative status to United Zo Organization (USA).

A representative of the organization Mandala Transformation Foundation said her cross-cultural group was helping orphans in Uganda who lacked access to clean water and medicine.

The representative of South Africa asked for details on the Uganda project, considering that the application had shown no expenditures.

The representative of the Mandala Transformation Foundation said due to funding shortages, limited support for the orphans was available, including deliveries of shoes and socks.

The Committee then granted special consultative status to the Mandala Transformation Foundation.

A representative of the organization Congregation of the Mission said his group had been founded 400 years ago in France.

The representative of Pakistan asked why expenditures were about $300,000 more than earnings.

The representative of the Congregation of the Mission said the organization maintained general and national budgets.

The representative of Cuba said there was no project expenditure in Part III of the application, whereas Part I described ongoing projects.

The representative of the Congregation of the Mission said the organization developed projects for communities.

The Committee then postponed consideration of that organization pending the receipt of further information.

A representative of the organization EUROGEO said his group had made the requested correction to its website.

The representative of China said that there were mentions on the website of workshops and a registration form that had mentioned China and Taiwan under the list of countries. He asked that Taiwan was deleted under that list.

A representative of the organization EUROGEO said the change had been made and Taiwan did not exist on the website any longer.

The representative of China said Taiwan was indeed on the website now.

The representative of Cuba asked about expenditures.

The representative of EUROGEO said expenditures included materials.

The Committee then postponed consideration of that organization pending the receipt of further information.

Special Consultative Status

The Committee then recommended that the Economic and Social Council grant special consultative status to the following 10 organizations:

Association Respect Cameroun (Cameroon);

Association Solidarite pour les Personnes Vivant le Veuvage (Democratic Republic of the Congo);

Association Un Monde Avenir (Cameroon);

Association de l’education environnementale pour les futures generations (Tunisia);

Association for Promotion Sustainable Development (India);

Association for Rural Area Social Modification, Improvement and Nestling (India);

Association nationale du civisme (Democratic Republic of the Congo);

Association of Christian Counsellors of Nigeria (Nigeria);

Association pour le developpement culturel (ADEC) (Chad);

Avabe Initiative for Community Development (Nigeria).

The Committee postponed consideration of the following five organizations:

Association d’assistance aux grands handicapes A� domicile (Tunisia) � as the representative of South Africa asked for details on financial information.

Association de la continuite des generations (Tunisia) � as the representative of South Africa asked for disaggregated data and financial details.

Association de lutte contre la pauvrete (Mauritania) � as the representative of Mauritania asked for names of individuals in the organization and for funding details and the representative of Greece asked for information on the organization’s members.

Association organisation populaire pour l’enseignment des droits humains (Mauritania) � as the representative of Mauritania asked about details of projects and their related budget.

Association pour l’A�ducation et la Sante de la Femme et de l’Enfant (AESFE) (Mauritania) � as the representative of Mauritania asked for more details on projects being undertaken.

Source: United Nations

Millions of people face food shortages in the Horn of Africa

With as little as one-quarter of expected rainfall received, widespread drought conditions in the Horn of Africa have intensified since the failure of the October-December rains, FAO said today.Areas of greatest concern cover much of Somalia, north-eas…

Warning of dire food shortages in Horn of Africa, UN agriculture agency calls for urgent action

With only one-quarter of expected rainfall received in the Horn of Africa in the October-December period, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today called for an immediate response to prevent widespread drought conditions from becoming a catastrophe.

The magnitude of the situation calls for scaled up action and coordination at national and regional levels, FAO Deputy Director-General, Climate and Natural Resources, Maria Helena Semedo told a high-level panel on humanitarian situation in the Horn of Africa chaired by the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, which was held yesterday on the side lines of the 28th African Union (AU) Summit in Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia.

This is, above all, a livelihoods and humanitarian emergency � and the time to act is now. We cannot wait for a disaster like the famine in 2011, she added.

FAO estimates that over 17 million people are currently in crisis and emergency food insecurity levels in member-countries of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), namely Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda, which are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.

Currently, close to 12 million people across Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya are in need of food assistance. Much of Somalia, north-east and coastal Kenya, south-east of Ethiopia as well as the Afar region are still to recover from El NiAo-induced drought of 2015/16 while South Sudan and Darfur region of Sudan are facing the protracted insecurity.

Acute food shortage and malnutrition also remains to be a major concern in many parts of South Sudan, Sudan (west Darfur) and Uganda’s Karamoja region.

FAO warns that if response is not immediate and sufficient, the risks are massive and the costs high.

For his part Mr. Guterres called for a stronger commitment to work together: We must express total solidarity with the people of Ethiopia on the looming drought, as a matter of justice.

FAO’s partnership to build resilience to shocks and crises in the Horn of Africa is critical and will increase, said FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa Bukar Tijani.

Recently, FAO and IGAD agreed on some key steps to enhance collaboration in mitigating the severe drought currently affecting the countries in the Horn of Africa region and strengthening food security and resilience analysis.

Source: UN News centre

UN releases $100 million to sustain relief operations in world’s most neglected crises

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres today released $100 million from the organization’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to sustain operations in nine neglected crises where levels of vulnerability are alarmingly high but funding remains critically low.

The allocation will enable life-saving help for more than 6 million people in Cameroon, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Libya, Madagascar, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia and Uganda.

CERF is a lifeline for people caught up in crises that don’t make the headlines but where needs are just as urgent, said Mr. Guterres in a news release.

This funding is crucial so that the UN and partners can continue assisting people who need our help so desperately, he added.

According to the news release, a large portion of the allocation will reach people affected by displacement � one of the most pressing humanitarian challenges in today’s world where more than 65 million people are displaced.

The funding will ensure that millions of people who fled Boko Haram-related violence and conflict in Nigeria, Niger and Cameroon will receive health care, food assistance and shelter. It will also bring relief to the internally displaced people as well as refugees from neighbouring countries in Somalia, Uganda and Libya.

Urgent support will also reach those suffering from malnutrition and food insecurity in Madagascar, Mali and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

CERF is one of the fastest ways to provide urgent aid. The allotment approved today will save lives in all nine countries, noted UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien, who manages the Fund on the Secretary-General’s behalf.

However, the allocation of $100 million addresses only a small portion of urgent humanitarian needs.

The news release further highlighted that as the scale and intensity of emergencies continue to increase, a larger, more robust CERF is needed so that aid can reach people, whenever and wherever crises hit.

To this end, in December last year, UN General Assembly endorsed a recommendation by then Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s to double CERF’s annual target to $1 billion by 2018.

As we race to address the humanitarian challenges of today, our goal of a $1billion CERF is vital so that help reaches people, whenever and wherever crises hit, added Mr. O’Brien, also the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, noting:

A strong CERF � for all and by all � is a key step towards our shared commitment to leave no one behind.

Source: UN News Centre


The Ugandan government is set to roll out a vigorous irrigation program to stem a prolonged drought that has savaged parts of the country, President Yoweri Museveni has said.

While addressing a joint press conference with Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) at statehouse Entebbe, the President also warned against destroying wetlands.

This comes two days after the New Vision ran a detailed feature titled: ‘Uganda’s lakes recede as the dry hits hard’ on the 26th January 2017. At least 1.3 million people around Uganda are said to be in need food aid after a prolonged dry spell that has hit the country’s cattle corridors, drained water bodies and led to a spike in food prices.

The President attributed the prolonged dry spell to the erosion of water catchment areas and wetlands which contribute 40% of Uganda’s rain. He also noted that La NiAa, a condition brought by cooler than average sea surface temperatures, in the Indian and Pacific Oceans which supply 60% of Uganda’s rain resulted in less evaporation and less rain.

The drought is a good problem, it has woken us up, and we are going to launch vigorous irrigation programs. One local contributor has been the attack on the wetlands which contribute to 40% of our rain. So by attacking the wetlands, your parents are contributing to the drought, Museveni said.

We are now having a double pronged movement, on the one hand to restore the wetlands but on the other hand to launch irrigation programs. We are going to shift from rain fed agriculture to irrigation, he added.

The President noted that Lake Victoria’s water level went up almost by 3 meters between the rainy season in the months of March to June 2016 to 12.67 meters and despite the dry spell, was still high at just slightly below 12 meters. Lake Victoria’s highest level was recorded in 1964 when the water level hit 13.46 meters.

Reacting to questions from the media about the recent suspension of new World Bank loans due to poor absorption, the President warned that ineffective government bureaucrats will be sacked and replaced by more efficient individuals.

The low absorption capacity is because some of your people are asleep that’s why they talk of absorption capacity. How can you talk of the problem of absorption capacity when there is need on the ground? the President asked rhetorically.

He applauded the IMF for playing a key advisory role to government since 1987; when government liberalized the economy, opening up for private sector investment, when the country was battling high inflation, and when the country was sourcing for funding of infrastructure projects.

When asked about protectionist trade policies in the US and the UK, President Museveni noted that prosperity is created when there are more buyers for country’s products.

He noted that Uganda maize and milk industries are sustained by regional demand, pointing out that of the 4 million metric tons of maize produced, only 1 million are locally consumed; while 800 million liters of milk are consumed locally out of 2.2 billion litres produced annually.

Those who are pushing isolationist positions � I don’t know how they will sustain the prosperity of their people. We already have the common market of East Africa and we are pushing for the integration of the common market of Africa because it is a must.

We are also negotiating with others to grant us access to their market such as the European Union, China, and the United States because this is a stimulus for prosperity, the President explained.

When asked about Uganda’s mounting national debt and funding for ambitious infrastructure projects, Lagarde pointed out that there is need for good balance between cheap concessional and expensive non-concessional loans.

Macro-economic stability is a key factor that is looked at by the investors and by the lenders. There is abundance of financing available that will go towards bankable projects that are implemented in a rigorous, disciplined and well integrated fashion, Lagarde said.

She noted that before 2012 global trade growth was twice as fast as Gross Domestic Product (GDP), however, structural forces have come to bare on global trade and economic growth.

What has certainly worked is regionalization in a way that is envisaged in the East African Community (EAC). And if it is supported by coordinated and well integrated infrastructure projects it allows for a large of market of say 150 million people, Lagarde said.

This creates more opportunities for each of those economies and it is a major factor of attractiveness for investors due to the size of the market, the ability of the market to purchase their products, and by infrastructure both in terms of transportation and power and soft power which is a combination of business friendly environment and predictable taxation which is fair, she added.

Lagarde noted that the regional integration presents opportunities for growth and additional income. However, she cautioned that the EAC regional integration should be hastened slowly.

Borrowing lessons from the European Union, she noted that there is need to move one step at a time, and make sure that the steps taken in regional integration are solid, sustainable and will take the region to the next level to consolidate a union that will be sustainable for the long run.

Largarde noted there is need to balance infrastructure development with social needs such as health and education. She also urged the President to support programs that enable women to access finance, and to end violence against women so as to realize a higher contribution of women to the economy.


Old and Young Team Up to Revive Nyatiti Music in Kenya

NAIROBI � The eight-stringed nyatiti was once a popular instrument in Africa’s Great Lakes region, but its use has declined dramatically. Now, a Kenyan master is teaming up with a young virtuoso to revive the tradition with a new album of nyatiti music.

Oduor Nyagweno’s been playing the nyatiti, a traditional African instrument, since he was a boy in Kenya’s western region.

He earned the nickname Nyagweno, meaning “spring chicken” in the Luo language, for his boundless energy as a young player.

He says, I started when I was 13 … When I first saw the instrument, and when I first held the instrument, it was a good feeling, it was an indescribable feeling … Now, I’m 70 years, and I’m still playing.”

The nyatiti was once popular throughout this part of East Africa. It is made of a wooden resonator covered in goat skin, and players pluck its eight strings like a harp.

He says, “of course, there were many different people who played … We would compete, and if you win, your name became famous … My name went very far.”

Since those raucous days, the nyatiti has faded in Kenya. Old players passed away and young people took an interest in rock and hip hop music.

But Nyagweno hopes to keep the instrument alive.

He’s teamed up with a young virtuoso, 25-year-old Daniel Onyango, and other Nairobi-based musicians to make a full album of classic nyatiti music.

He says, “The wisdom this instrument represents is that there are things that the past can teach us. Even like the people today, what we say now can’t be said without the words people spoke in the past.”

Here’s a clip from a recent recording session of the two nyatiti players at Nairobi’s Alchemist Studio.

Onyango has studied under Nyagweno for seven years. He’s taken the nyatiti international, performing in Uganda, Sweden, and the United States.

He also gives the old instrument a modern twist, playing the nyatiti in a band that includes electric guitar, saxophone, and drums.

“I think one of the unique things about young people picking up the instrument is they are able to experiment and popularize the instrument,” said Onyango. “The people in the urban setting … they perceive this as an instrument that you can only play for the tourist … and I think that has had a negative effect on our musical heritage. But also it’s a cool challenge, because there’s more possibility, you automatically stand out among thousands of musicians who play western guitar.”

Though the nyatiti is traditionally of the Luo tribe, Onyango, who hails from a different tribe, hopes to make it the instrument the pride of all Kenyans. Here, he sings in the Kikuyu language.

For Nyagweno, seeing a new “spring chicken” play the nyatiti gives him comfort that his legacy won’t be lost.

He says, I can say that he is like my son. Playing the nyatiti won’t stop with my death. He will continue the traditions of the past. It can’t be extinguished yet as long as we are still teaching them.”

The album titled “Oduor Nyagweno and the Nyatiti Attack” will be released in May by Kenya’s Dagoretti Records.

Source: Voice of America


President Yoweri Museveni has arrived in the Ethiopian Capital Addis Ababa for the 28th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU). The summit is being held at the AU Headquarters under the theme “Harnes…

Opening of the 18th Ordinary General Assembly of Organization of the African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA)

What: Opening of the 18th Ordinary General Assembly of Organization of the African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA)

When: 31st January 2017

Time: 09:00 a.m. � 12:30 p.m.

Where: African Union Headquarters, AUC Old Plenary Hall

Theme: Building on 15 years of engagement to harness the demographic dividend of Africa through promoting the needs of adolescents and their access to youth-friendly health services

Objective: The 18th Ordinary General Assembly of OAFLA will officially open on 31st January 2017. It will adopt minutes of the 17th Ordinary General Assembly; activity and financial reports will be presented and will discuss and adopt recommendations of Steering Committee.Highlights of the opening will include welcome remarks by H.E. Mme. Roman Tesfaye, First Lady of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia; Opening Statement by H.E. Mrs. Gertrude Mutha-rika, First Lady of the Republic of Malawi and President of OAFLA; group photo of the First Ladies and speeches by representatives of stakeholders of OAFLA.

Media representatives are invited to cover the opening ceremony of the 18th Ordinary General Assembly of OAFLA on 31 January 2017 at 9:00 a.m.

Source: African Union Commission (AUC).

Uganda rebel returns add to growing headache for Kabila and Congo

The Democratic Republic of Congo has accused neighbouring Uganda of allowing former M23 rebels to cross the common border, sparking fears of a new armed rebellion and yet more humanitarian suffering in a region long used to violence.

Government spokesman Lambert Mende Omalanga said hundreds of armed ex-M23 fighters, supposedly exiled in Uganda, had re-emerged in North Kivu Province in eastern Congo, from where they waged a 19-month war against the Congolese government in 2012-2013.

We are disappointed with our Ugandan colleagues for letting these criminals out, moreover armed, said Mende. We can’t allow this [destabilisation] to happen. We engaged these criminals in confrontations and flushed them out.

The clash he refers to took place in the border town of Ishasha on 14 January, but it’s unclear how many ex-M23 or Congolese government troops were killed.

The M23 (March 23 Movement), a largely Tutsi rebel group, began as a mutiny but rapidly gained ground in North Kivu, taking control of the provincial capital, Goma, in November 2012. It was finally defeated by the Congolese army and the UN’s Force Intervention Brigade in November 2013.

A UN group of experts’ report in December 2013 concluded that the M23 fighters were backed by Rwanda and Uganda, a charge both countries’ governments have denied.

Under the terms of the Nairobi Declarations that ended the hostilities, the M23 renounced the rebellion in return for the Congolese government’s commitment to a disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration (DDR) programme, and a limited offer of amnesty.

Almost 1,400 M23 fighters were initially cantoned in the Bihanga Military Training School in western Uganda after surrendering nearby, awaiting eventual return to Congo. Fewer than 300 remain.

New rebellion?

Last week, Ugandan government spokesman Ofwono Opondo admitted that some ex-M23 rebels had escaped from Bihanga. They have lately and quietly been escaping in small groups of about five into the general public, and some to unknown places, he told IRIN.

On 18 January, the Ugandan military apprehended a group of 101 former M23 rebels in Uganda’s western towns of Mbarara and Kabale. They were disguised as civilians en route to Congo. More arrests of former fighters have since been made.

“There was always a danger of M23 returning to the DRC.”

We caught them trying to escape back to DRC under unclear circumstances, said Ugandan army deputy spokesman Major Henry Obbo. Some 40 to 50 former combatants had also escaped a week earlier.

But, according to a 19 January Ugandan government statement, just 270 of the original 1,377 ex-M23 fighters cantoned in Bihanga actually remain there. Subtracting those and the roughly 200 former fighters who have returned home to Congo under the DDR programme suggests around 900 have fled the camp.

With the M23 leadership and much of its rank and file still intact, there was always a danger of M23 returning to the DRC, Phil Clark, a Great Lakes expert at SOAS, University of London, told IRIN.

Uganda insists it was not involved in the escape of the rebels and is in no way backing another rebellion.

These are individuals who are escaping on their own, said Opondo. Uganda will not and does not support any armed activities to destabilise the DRC.

Nicaise Kibel Bel’Oka, director of the Centre for Geopolitical Study and Research of Eastern Congo, believes Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has no appetite for backing a new rebellion as he is more concerned about shoring up the support of his own generals.

Bel’Oka told IRIN it was an open secret that there were now divisions within the Ugandan military, adding: If Kampala takes the risk of arming ex-M23 elements and sending them to fight in Congo, it runs the serious risk of seeing them turn against the [Museveni] regime.

Not enough amnesty

Uganda has called repeatedly on Kinshasa to honour its DDR commitments, which were plagued by a lack of trust between the former M23 rebels and the Congolese government.

We can’t be blamed for the failed repatriation of these people, said Opondo, the Ugandan government spokesman. We want them out. We have always asked the DRC government to take them back. But they [authorities] seem unwilling and failed to convince them.

A senior M23 official, who asked not to be identified, told IRIN the mass escape was a direct result of the Congolese government dragging its feet over the DDR programme and failing to provide the necessary security guarantees to convince the ex-rebels to return.

These combatants have been in Bihanga for over three years without knowing their next fate. [President Joseph] Kabila has failed to honour the implementation of the Nairobi Declarations and Addis Ababa Agreements for their return and reintegration, the M23 source said.

As Congolese citizens, they have a right to go back home without informing anybody, the source added, denying however that they had returned armed.

In January 2014, violence flared in Bihanga when the former rebels protested against their return home, fearing ill-treatment.

The main sticking point was the government’s refusal to offer an amnesty to the M23 leadership, said Clark.

Bad timing

The M23 fighters are arriving back in Congo at a particularly tense time.

The whole region is worried about Kabila’s refusal to rule out running for a third term, and the ongoing uncertainty over when the Congolese elections will be held, said Clark.

Kabila was constitutionally due to step down in December last year, at the end of his two-term limit. But he has managed to cling on to power even in the face of a united and furious opposition.

According to a deal mediated by the Catholic Church on New Year’s Eve, he is supposed to stand down after elections at the end of 2017. But no one seems convinced that Kabila � who came to power in 2001 after the assassination of his predecessor and father (former rebel leader Laurent-Desire Kabila) � will stick to the agreement.

Even if the former M23 rebels do not seem to have any clear objective in reforming their group, the fact that Kabila has outstayed his welcome can make it easier for them to recruit new members in the Congo and legitimise their existence, said Nina Wilen, a postdoctoral research fellow at Universite Libre de Bruxelles.

The New Year’s Eve accord calls for the reform of the electoral commission, new voter registration, a new prime minister nominated by the opposition, and a follow-up committee to oversee implementation of the agreement.

But the deal does not include a detailed calendar for implementation, nor is it even clear how the follow-up committee will be structured.

Thierry Vircoulon, a lecturer on security issues at Sciences Po in Paris, told IRIN that Kabila has a habit of playing for time when pressed.

The Congolese political class as a whole likes the long negotiation, he said. But the December accord is an emergency accord. The timeline for the elections is only 12 months, so very short. Given all these tasks and the 12 months’ timeframe, we are already late.

This tallies with a 12 January blog post by Ida Sawyer, Human Rights Watch director for Central Africa.

Credible elections can’t be organised when opposition leaders and activists are thrown in prison and beaten, and convicted on trumped-up charges, when independent media outlets are shut down or blocked, and when security forces fire live rounds on peaceful protesters, she wrote.

What needs to be done?

The situation in Congo potentially destabilises all of its neighbours. So, it isn’t surprising that some armed actors may intervene militarily, either to try to resolve the political situation by force or to capitalise on the general uncertainty, Sawyer told IRIN.

She urged the international community and regional leaders to remain engaged.

They should support the organisation of credible, timely elections and signal that they stand ready to impose additional targeted sanctions and other punitive measures should the repression continue, if those responsible for past abuses are not held to account, or if efforts are made to prevent or delay the organisation of elections.

Bel’Oka believes the M23 are a symptom of a broader problem of governance in Congo and said that part of the solution involves facilitating their proper return.

Today, these former fighters cantoned in Uganda feel abandoned, he explained. So they become easy to manipulate and are ready to conclude that, no matter what, they will be considered the enemy, especially by Kinshasa.

Source: IRIN