Janine ErasmusDelegates at the 10th African Union (AU) summit convened in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to discuss peace in the strife-torn western Sudan region of Darfur, strengthened relations between the African Union and the United Nations (UN), and conflict resolution in other African countries. The summit took place from 25 January to 2 February 2008.The proposed reform of the UN Security Council was also raised, with UN General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim noting that he hoped the AU leadership would help drive “the pressing need to make progress on Security Council reform”. Kerim also praised the AU for its “impressive history of constructive participation in the General Assembly’s work”.Africa has long been known as a particularly conflict-prone continent, and, said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, it is in the interests of all that bodies such as the AU and UN work together. In his address at the opening session of the AU summit Ban said, “Close partnerships are crucial for addressing the continent’s peace and security challenges.”As post-election violence continued to wreak havoc in Kenya, Ban urged President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga to “do everything possible to resolve the sources of the crisis peacefully”. At the same time the secretary-general mentioned that the UN was involved in peace initiatives in other troubled African nations such as Burundi, Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau.At a high-level UN Security Council meeting held in Pretoria in September 2007, Ban remarked that while African governments and people have made progress in some areas, on their own they could not tackle all the conflicts. He said that strengthened ties between the UN and regional organisations such as the AU would “enhance the capacities to address conflicts. Together, we must respond in a more timely and complementary manner to the crises in Africa.”At the same meeting South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki highlighted the importance of Africans finding solutions for African problems, saying that greater resources would be needed to give the continent the best chance of successfully tackling key challenges and establishing a lasting framework for peace and security in Africa. South Africa is currently a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council – the country’s membership ends at the end of 2008.Fruitful collaboration between AU and UNSpeaking at the more recent AU summit, Ban Ki-moon described the establishment of a joint UN-AU peacekeeping force in Darfur as the advent of a historic phase in the “long-standing and fruitful” collaboration between the two organisations. The partnership between the UN and AU, said Ban, was also fundamental in helping to resolve conflicts elsewhere on the continent, such as in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), northern Uganda and Somalia.The UN and the AU have been working closely together towards a settlement to the Darfur crisis through negotiations currently taking place in Sirte, Libya, between the Sudanese government and opposing groups. South Africa has already participated in initiatives to resolve conflict in Burundi, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, and Kenya, among others – with varying degrees of success. In November 2007 the government of Sudan formally asked South Africa to mediate in the Sirte peace talks.The Darfur peace talks follow on from the July 2007 endorsement by the UN and the Sudanese government of the joint UN-AU peacekeeping force. The joint force, headed by Nigerian General Martin Luther Agwai, officially took over from the AU peacekeeping mission on 31 December 2007. The AU mission was installed in June 2004 following an AU-mediated ceasefire, but for various reasons has been largely ineffective. These reasons include insufficient troops, equipment and training, as well as a lack of consistent funding from the AU, although the European Union, the United States and other donors have contributed.In fact, the AU mission was set up mainly for the purposes of monitoring but as civil violence continued in Darfur the force’s mandate was expanded in October 2004 to include the protection of endangered civilians it encountered during the course of its normal operations. While the AU force numbered a mere 7 000, the new force will include up to 26 000 personnel although currently only a third of that number has been installed. According to an AU spokesman it will take some months to build up the force to its full capacity – it will then be the largest peacekeeping operation in the world.Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Aziz Pahad, speaking at a briefing on 18 January 2008 at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, said that South Africa has already deployed about 900 troops and around 100 police officers as part of the joint force. He added that the country would willingly contribute more personnel if required.Joint AU-UN operation in Darfur is “unprecedented”In a 2007 interview with the Council on Foreign Relations, assistant secretary-general for UN peacekeeping operations Jane Holl Lute described the joint operation as unprecedented, adding, “Never before in the history of the United Nations have the UN and UN peacekeepers worked explicitly with another international organisation – in this case, the African Union – in a single integrated operation that is fully funded by the United Nations assessment mechanism and under the integrated command structure and the rules, procedures, and processes of the UN.”The Darfur Peace Agreement, signed under AU auspices on 5 May 2006 between the Sudanese government and one of the rebel factions (two other factions rejected the agreement), has also failed to halt the violence in the region.While the Sudanese government and UN approved the joint force in July 2007, it was only on 4 February 2008 – after months of international pressure on Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to admit the troops – that an agreement regarding the terms of deployment was reached. This represents a significant step forward, said officials, as the lack of consensus in this regard was seen as a major barrier to progress.However, reports say that the Sudanese government is not yet wholly satisfied with the agreement and may seek further discussion.The Darfur crisis has already led to the death of some 200 000 people and the displacement of another 2.2 million – these people, states a report from the independent non-governmental organisation Human Rights Watch, are living in camps. Thousands more have fled to refugee camps in neighbouring Chad. In addition to those displaced, there are an estimated two million additional people who are regarded as “conflict-affected” by the UN – many of these need assistance in obtaining food.Millennium Development GoalsBan also reiterated the UN’s commitment to working with developing African nations to fulfil the Millennium Development Goals, a set of eight goals adopted by the UN in 2001 to help people triumph over obstacles to progress such as extreme poverty, gender inequality, lack of education, and poor health services. These goals are also commonly accepted as a framework for measuring development progress.Looking to strengthen ties between the AU and UN, the secretary-general held meetings with leaders from several African nations including Algeria, Kenya, Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso. Discussions ranged from humanitarian issues and elections to the UN Security Council. Ban also met with the prime ministers of Somalia and Guinea and the presidents of Benin and South Africa.Useful linksThe African UnionUnited Nations Security CouncilHuman Rights WatchCouncil on Foreign Relations
Soweto vendors are hard at work, making craft to send overseas to tourists who came for the World Cup and loved their work. (Image: Makoena Pabale) It’s been six months since the final game of the 2010 Fifa World Cup was played in South Africa and the last of the foreign tourists returned home, but small vendors in this country say they are still reaping the benefits. South African street traders say that brushing up on different languages ahead of the tournament was really worth it – and they’re still getting craft orders from overseas fans.Thulani Mabhena is a vendor outside the Hector Peterson Museum in Orlando West, Soweto – South Africa’s biggest township. He picked up some French so that he’d be able to converse with World Cup tourists who visited the museum and expressed interest in buying some of his handmade crafts.A hot spot for tourists in general, the museum on Khumalo Street commemorates the 1976 Soweto Uprising and is named after the first pupil who was killed in the protest.“My business did really well during the World Cup,” said Mabhena, who sells handmade beaded leather shoes, shirts, hats, wooden bangles, wooden wine glasses, handmade painted tablecloths, calabashes, small sculptures of elephants and rhinos, key holders and other ornaments painted in the colours of the South African flag.Mabhena said it was a happy time for both the tourists and for his business. “We got to exchange cultures. With my conversational French I was able to sit with some of the tourists and chat about life and the amazing experience of the World Cup. We talked about our favourite teams and players, and I taught them how to play the legendary vuvuzela.”He said tourists felt safe in the township and spent time before and after games enjoying the culture, food and drinks at local spots close to where he worked. “It was amazing how free everyone was. I taught some of the visitors how to sing and dance South African style, it was a lot of fun. The best part was making sales … many of the tourists thought my stuff was magnifique (magnificent, in French) and bon marché (cheap, in French).”Mabhena said he is still hard at work keeping up with a number of orders for “local treasures” – such as calabashes and animal sculptures – which foreigners want packaged and sent back to them as a reminder of their time in Africa.“The crafts painted with South African flags were also quite popular with many tourists – they also asked me to tailor-make some crafts painted with their countries’ flags too.”A recipe for successDuring the 2010 tournament Ntabiseng Molefe and Lufuno Mgomane were based a few kilometres from Soccer City, which hosted the opening and closing matches. They learned Portuguese so they could chat to fans supporting their food business. “We sold plates and plates of pap and tripe, a local delicacy,” said Molefe.“Business is a bit slow now because there isn’t the same flow of people coming to the stadium, however, we have used the money we made during that time to pay for baking and cooking classes so we can open a small shop and sell food,” said Mgomane.She said many World Cup tourists asked them to write out the recipes and ingredients of the food they sold, so the fans could make the dishes back home. “Many were willing to pay for the recipes, but we were happy to give it to them for free. A lot of them insisted so, well, we were not going to refuse money.”Breaking into new markets“I made a killing on vuvuzelas,” said Siphamandla Njilo. “ I was just travelling around fan parks and along stadium routes all over Gauteng with vuvuzelas and flags. Within two hours I would be rushing back home to get more vuvuzelas and make more orders because tourists loved them so much and snapped them up within minutes.”Njilo said he couldn’t believe how popular the loud plastic horns were. “It was crazy … everyone wanted to blow one, it was all you could hear from any part of South Africa. It may have irritated some, but it excited me because I made major money from it.”As with the other vendors, Njilo said he is still enjoying the financial benefits of the World Cup. “Ive put my money away and want to go to school to learn how to make crafts that celebrate football and African culture. I could send these overseas to be sold there. I think I’ll do well, I saw how many foreign visitors loved African craft and I want to break into that market.”
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The uncle of the Unnao alleged gang rape survivor on Monday requested the Uttar Pradesh government to transfer the case of the Rae Bareli accident, in which two of his relatives died, to the CBI. An FIR was being registered on a complaint of the uncle, who is lodged in the Rae Bareli jail, said ADG Lucknow, Rajeev Krishna. The CBI is already probing the gang rape case and ‘custodial death’ of the survivor’s father. BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar, now jailed, is the main accused in the entire case.Mr. Krishna told reporters that the police were awaiting the government’s report on the request to transfer the accident case to the CBI. “As soon as that report comes it’ll be recommended to the CBI,” he said.One of the two deceased persons, the aunt of the survivor, was a CBI witness in the Unnao case, he noted.
OTTAWA – Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr defended on Tuesday his government’s ability to get major resource projects moving, saying the government has approved a number of proposals and it’s up to their proponents to get them built.Carr was speaking at the end of a meeting of federal and provincial energy ministers in New Brunswick, where TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline project was an unofficial topic of discussion.It has been almost a year since the first round of National Energy Board hearings on Energy East collapsed after protesters shut down Montreal hearings and accused the panellists of bias in favour of the oil industry.In January the board started the whole review process from scratch and appointed a new, three-member panel to conduct the hearings. New hearings haven’t yet been scheduled as the NEB is still designing how the new hearing process will work.Energy East is a 4,500-km pipeline to carry 1.1 million barrels of oil a day from Alberta and Saskatchewan to refineries in Montreal and New Brunswick. The project includes converting an existing natural gas pipeline to carry crude and building new segments of pipeline to complete the route.Carr said the government has now provided certainty to the review process.“We’ve given the NEB the resources it needs. We have appointed new commissioners. They’re in their midst now, we’ll wait until they make their recommendations. That’s restoring confidence among Canadians that the process is working.”He denied that the government’s requirement to balance the economics of oil and gas development with environmental protections and indigenous consultation was grinding things to a halt.He listed five projects the Liberal government approved or has supported since taking office, including the Pacific Northwest Liquefied Natural Gas pipeline and terminal in B.C., Kinder Morgan’s TransMountain pipeline expansion between Alberta and B.C., Enbridge’s Line 3 replacement, expanding TransCanada’s Nova Gas Transmission gathering system in Alberta and the Keystone pipeline proposal awaiting approval in the U.S.He said the government believes all of them are “good for Canada.”“We believe we made those decisions in the balance of interests for Canada,” he said. “We stand by those decisions. It’s now up to the proponents to determine the timing of construction and eventually what will flow through the infrastructure.”However three of the five projects he listed have either fallen apart or face significant hurdles.Earlier this summer, Malaysian energy giant Petronas pulled up stakes on its planned liquefied natural gas pipeline and terminal in British Columbia, citing poor market conditions.Kinder Morgan’s TransMountain pipeline expansion between Alberta and British Columbia was given the green light in the fall of 2016 and was supposed to start construction next month. However the new NDP government in B.C. moved last week to join legal challenges against the pipeline, after campaigning on a pledge to do whatever it took to stop the project.Nebraska is currently holding hearings to determine if it will allow Keystone to proceed across its territory.Battles over pipelines in Canada are largely at the provincial level. B.C. and Alberta are on opposite sides when it comes to the TransMountain project. Ontario and Quebec don’t support the Energy East pipeline, which is backed by Alberta, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick.New Brunswick Energy Minister Rick Doucet said Energy East was on his mind at the meeting and he raised it with a number of his provincial colleagues.“This is a nation-builder. This pipeline is an opportunity for all of Canada and we all understand the importance of this project,” said Doucet.-follow @mrabson on Twitter.