The damage done to Libya will already take “years to mend” but unless fighting around the capital Tripoli stops, the country risks “descending into a civil war which could lead to the permanent division of the country”.
That was the blunt assessment of UN Special Representative to Libya, Ghassan Salamé, who also heads the UNSMIL Support Mission, briefing the Security Council on Tuesday, following weeks of intensifying conflict in and around the outskirts of Tripoli, instigated by the self-styled Libyan National Army forces of General Khalif Haftar who also leads a parallel administration based in the eastern city of Benghazi.
Mr. Salamé said grimly, that he had spent two years hoping to avoid having to deliver such a bleak in-person briefing to the Council, noting there were already 460 dead – 29 civilians – since the offensive began in early April. More than 2,400 have been injured, and 75,000 forced from their homes, the majority civilians, with half of the displaced women and children.
Violence began on the eve of an UN-backed National Conference planned to bring more than 150 representatives together from across the country, which had to be postponed. “There was great public excitement about what the conference could yield” said the top UN official, “in terms of a way forward to end Libya’s eight-year long period of transition” which threw him “into the deepest level of sadness for the opportunity lost”.
Tripoli violence could spark ‘long and bloody war’ across region
“I am no Cassandra” he added, referencing the mythical Greek figure who uttered prophesies which nobody believed, “but the violence on the outskirts of Tripoli is just the start of a long and bloody war…imperilling the security of Libya’s immediate neighbours and the wider Mediterranean”.
Mr. Salamé noted that in southern Libya, terrorist group Daesh, or ISIL, was flying its distinctive black flags, and reportedly had been responsible for four attacks, killing a total of 17, with more than 10 wounded, and eight others kidnapped, since Libya’s militias turned their guns on each other this year, not the common extremist threat.
“There are numerous reports of extremists, persons under international sanctions, and individuals wanted by the International Criminal Court appearing on the battlefield on all sides. All parties must publicly disassociate themselves from such elements without delay and refer to the ICC those for whom arrest warrants have been issued”, he said.
He bemoaned the flow of weapons back into the country noting “many countries” were providing arms to all sides. “Without a robust enforcement mechanism, the arms embargo into Libya will be come a cynical joke. Some nations are fuelling this bloody conflict; the United Nations should put an end to it”, he added.
Turning to the humanitarian needs he said health facilities were struggling to cope, with 11 ambulances “directly hit” by airstrikes, rockets and shelling. “I am appalled by the apparent disregard for the due protection of personnel engaging in vital medical tasks”, he noted, expressing deep concern for the rise in abductions, disappearances and arbitrary arrests in the past 6 weeks. He called on the Council’s “unequivocal support” in applying International Humanitarian Law.
UN remains ‘alongside the Libyan people’
Mr. Salamé said despite scaling-down non-essential UN staff in Tripoli and Benghazi, “we remain in Libya alongside the Libyan people to deliver as best we can”, with over 42,000 receiving aid so far. He said through local democratic elections held since 30 March, the people were showing their stoical resolve too, saying it was “vital to keep the pilot light of democracy alive”, and appealed for Council support to “the municipal election process.”
“There is no military solution” he reiterated, “and it is high time for those who have harboured this illusion to open their eyes and adjust themselves to this reality. Libya’s mosaic of communities cannot be governed without alliances and relationships stretching across the whole country”. He said Libyans would need to adjust in light of the attempts to take Tripoli by force since 4 April.
“A better future is still possible, but we all must be seized with the fierce urgency of now, while the front lines remain on the outskirts of Tripoli, and before the battle moves, God forbid, to the capital’s more densely populated neighbourhoods. This will require concerted and immediate action by the international community”.
He concluded with a call for the Council to act immediately, in support of politics over any military solution. “Full civil war in Libya is not inevitable. It may occur by the will of some parties, and by the inaction of others. I hear Libyans resigning themselves to a conflict of many months or even many years. My duty, and
that of this family of nations, is to tell them: ‘No. You need to stop the fighting and stop it now, for the sake of your loved ones, for the sake of your country, and for the sake of international peace and security.”
29 million babies born into conflict in 2018 – UNICEF
More than 29 million babies were born into conflict-affected areas in 2018, UNICEF said today.
Armed violence across countries including Afghanistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen meant that, throughout last year, more than 1 in 5 babies globally spent their earliest moments in communities affected by the chaos of conflict, often in deeply unsafe, and highly stressful environments.
“Every parent should be able to cherish their baby’s first moments, but for the millions of families living through conflict, the reality is far bleaker,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “In countries around the world, violent conflict has severely limited access to essential services for parents and their babies. Millions of families lack access to nutritious food, safe water, sanitation, or a secure and healthy environment to grow and bond. Along with the immediate, obvious dangers, the long-term impacts of such a start in life are potentially catastrophic.”
When young children experience prolonged or repeated adverse and traumatic events, the brain’s stress management system is activated without relief causing ‘toxic stress’. Over time, stress chemicals break down existing neural connections and inhibit new ones from forming, leading to lasting consequences for children’s learning, behaviour, and physical and mental health.
Examples of the impact of conflict on babies and young children – given by UNICEF staff working in conflict zones – include:
- “Some of the young children we see shake with fear, uncontrollably, for hours on end. They don’t sleep. You can hear them whimpering, it’s not a usual cry but a cold, weak whimper. Others are so malnourished and traumatized they detach emotionally from the world and people around them, causing them to become vacant and making it impossible for them to interact with their families,” UNICEF worker in Yemen.
- “My son, five-year-old Heraab, finds himself in a community where he is constantly exposed to the sounds of explosions, smell of smoke, accompanied by the regular shrieking of sirens, be it police or ambulance, or the persistent honking of cars and motorbikes rushing the injured to hospital. He shudders and wakes up at night if a truck passes by with speed, sometimes shaking the windows of our house, thinking it must be another attack,” UNICEF worker in Afghanistan.
- “Some of the children are scared and look very anxious, others are very aggressive. They are frightened of visitors and flee when they see visiting vehicles coming. The cars remind them of fighting, war weaponry they need to flee from,” UNICEF worker in Somalia.
- “I’ve travelled to the hardest to reach areas of South Sudan to help provide humanitarian assistance to children who have been forced to flee their villages because of violence. With no basic services, no health facilities, poor sanitation, no food, and deep-set trauma, families struggle to survive. I see despair in the eyes of the children I meet. The conflict has taken away their childhood,” UNICEF worker in South Sudan.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the landmark Convention on the Rights of the Child, in which, among other things, governments pledged to protect and care for children affected by conflict. Yet today, more countries are embroiled in internal or international conflict than at any other time in the past three decades, threatening the safety and wellbeing of millions of children. Hospitals, health centres and child friendly spaces – all of which provide critical services to parents and babies – have come under attack in conflicts around the world in recent years.
Providing safe spaces for families and their young children living through conflict – where children can use play and early learning as outlets for some of the trauma they have experienced; and providing psychosocial support to children – and their families – are critical parts of UNICEF’s humanitarian response.
When caregivers are given the support they need to cope with and process trauma, they have the best possible chance of providing their young children with the nurturing care needed for healthy brain development – acting as a ‘buffer’ from the chaos around them.
“Parents who interact with their babies can help shield them from the negative neurological effects of conflict. Yet, in times of conflict, parents are frequently overwhelmed,” said Fore. “Ultimately what these families need is peace, but until then they desperately need more support to help them and their children cope with the devastation they face – 29 million new lives and futures depend on it.”
Wanted Rwandan warlord killed by DR Congo troops
A Rwandan Hutu rebel leader wanted by the International Criminal Court on war crime charges has been shot dead by the Congolese army, DRC military spokesperson said on Wednesday in what Kigali described as “good news for peace”.
Sylvestre Mudacumura, commander of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), was “definitively neutralised” in DRC’s North Kivu province on Tuesday night, General Leon-Richard Kasonga said.
Mudacumura, wanted for charges including rape, torture, and pillage, was killed about 60 kilometres (37 miles) from the capital of the province Goma.
Neighbouring Rwanda welcomed the news, saying it proved DRC President Felix Tshisekedi’s commitment to fighting “negative forces”.
“The death of Sylvestre Mudacumura is good news for peace and security in the region,” Rwandan state minister for regional affairs Olivier Nduhungirehe told AFP.
“With his genocide group, the FDLR, he was destabilising DRC, killing Congolese and Rwandans.”
The FDLR was created by Rwandan Hutu refugees in eastern DRC after the genocide of Tutsis by majority Hutus in Rwanda in 1994.
According to the United Nations, the force numbers between 500 and 600 active fighters.
They are scattered across the mineral-rich eastern Congolese provinces of North and South Kivu as well as in southern Katanga, and the group is regularly accused of committing atrocities against civilians in the zones it controls.
“His death confirms the commitment of President Felix Tshisekedi in fighting negative forces and will open a new era of good and peaceful cooperation between DRC and countries in the region,” Nduhungirehe said.
The FDLR, opposed to the current Rwandan government, has not launched any large-scale offensive in Rwanda since 2001.
– Warning to other warlords –
Eastern DRC has been torn for more than two decades by armed conflicts fed by ethnic and land disputes, competition for control of a wealth of mineral resources and regional rivalries.
Mudacumura’s death “is a strong signal for other rebels,” said General Richard Kasonga, spokesman of the Congolese army, calling it a “big step” in the fight against insecurity and terrorism.
He called on “all armed groups to lay down their arms, or face the same fate as Mudacumura.”
During a visit to the region early this month, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also called on the rebels to disarm.
US researcher Jason Stearn said the death was “an extremely important event”, telling AFP that the FDLR is “one of the biggest armed groups in the region, even if they have diminished in capacity.”
However, Stearn, of New York University’s Congo Research Group, held out little hope for peace in a region where around 130 armed groups remain active.
“We have seen a lot of commanders die without the groups necessarily disappearing or diminishing in force,” he said.
Japan: OPU prominent member needs ¥20 million for kidney transplant, seeks financial assistance
Oodua Progressive Union (OPU), Japan chapter has disclosed that ailing member, Mr Segun Tope Sharafa needs ¥20 million (20,000,000 Japanese yen) to undergo kidney transplant.
The group coordinator, Comrade Ige Rowland James in a chat with our reporter disclosed this on Tuesday.
Comrade Ige, who betrayed emotion further described the ex-President, Yoruba Association, Japan, Mr Sharafa as a prominent member, saying “its so sad for this kind of health challenge news of our respected member , the Baba Oodua of Japan”.
Speaking further, he said “although Oodua Progressive Union (OPU), Japan is new among others but we stand like others and we never envisaged to encounter the health challenge that is facing one of our prominent members and the union. But we decided to face the challenge as it comes because our main goal is service to humanity which is the best work of life.
“Baba Oodua is critically ill and it has become obvious that he cannot provide the required funds to have the necessary medical attention.
“At this point, we are calling all our leaders, union, friends and family across the globe to stand by us and let show the real love and unity within us”, Ige appealed.
Mega Icon Magazine reliably gathered that Mr Sharafa is currently hospitalised in Japan due to kidney-related ailment, and urgently needed to be taken to Indian for transplant that will gulp ¥20 million.
Also, the OPU is organising a fund raising event on behalf of its ailing member billed for Sunday October 27th, 2019 at Arashi party room, Shinjuku, Tokyo.
For any enquiry or support, please contact the Coordinator or the following executives.
Oodua Progressive Union, Japan National Coordinator, Com Ige James +81-80-5036-3437.
Comrade Odanibe lucky 81-70-1421-1414
Comrade Busari Jelly 81-80-5037-4712
Comrade Adeniyi Taiwo 81-70-7051-8154
Comrade Akadi Micheal 81-80-4478-0665.
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