Displacement in Burma – June 2013 situation

IDP in Kachin, Burma
June 4, 2013
Cause of Displacement:
(1) Tension between Burmese gov an ethnic Kachin rebels.
(2) Burma’s military has been at war against Kachin rebels for decades, but both sides signed a ceasefire agreement in 1994. The conflict flared again up in June 2011 after the longstanding ceasefire broke down. Fighting escalated in December 2012 until February 2013, when clashes became less frequent.
(3) war has displaced tens of thousands of people. In Myitkyina and Wai Maw alone, more than 12,000 people are currently staying in 39 camps, although there are many other camps in the state.

Current situation:
(1) June 1, preliminary peace agreement signed bn the two parties, Burmese gov says IDPs could return home within 2 months, but detailed plans to be discussed with Kachin Independence Organization (KIO).
(2) May 30, 2013, a government negotiation team and the KIO signed a seven-point statement in which both sides agreed to “undertake efforts to achieve de-escalation and cessation of hostilities” and to “continue discussions on military matters related to repositioning of troops.”
(3) Officials said the agreement—although not a ceasefire—marked an important step toward ending clashes.
(4) US Embassy in Rangoon said the US was encouraged by the agreement and would closely follow the political, military and humanitarian situation in Kachin State.
Facts:
(1) Tens of thousands of Kachin people have been displaced in fighting between Kachin rebels and the government since a longstanding ceasefire broke down in 2011.
(2) more than 500 refugees at Thagaya camp in Wai Maw Township.
(3) IDP camps are overcrowded and lack supplies.
(4) government has prevented international aid groups from accessing camps in rebel-controlled territories near the border with China, although a UN convoy was allowed to bring aid in February.
(5) UN will assist Burma’s government and the KIO with return of the IDPs.
(6) Camp residents praised the minister’s news but voiced concern for people’s safety. “We really want to go home, but only if there is genuine ceasefire,” one IDP told Aung Min. “Plus we have no money to resume our livelihoods, and our neighborhoods have been riddled with landmines. I’m worried about our children’s education, too.”
(7) minister said that after the government establishes trust with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), de-mining programs would also begin in the state.
(8) “We will support food, education and so on,” he added. “But our government alone can’t handle all of these tasks. It must be an all-inclusive process.”

Reference: http://www.irrawaddy.org/archives/36161

Displacement in Darfur (Sudan)

Darfur (Sudan)
June 4, 2013
Context: plight of IDPs
Note: original article (referenced below)

Since 2003 everything in Darfur has changed, including the culture of the IDP camps, impacting the local social structure. Darfur has been suffering from a major transformation, a new style of life. Today, the IDPs depend greatly on national and international organizations for all services, including accommodation. Before the war, IDPs depended on farm lands, where they would breed their cattle and carry out agricultural activities but along the way, they lost their lands and moved toward big cities, in search of security and shelter.

The issue of IDPs has opened doors for international involvement. The IDPs have been waiting desperately for ten years anticipating a better quality of life. A promise made by UN agencies but unfortunately people have been waiting for too long with the hopes of future as gloomy.
There is also a sense of uneasiness and worry about the existence of camps which begins to threaten the identity and culture of people. How to deal with this issue is an enormous challenge facing IDPs, local government authorities and international communities.

Mohammed Abdul (2013) suggests the solution should start from the IDPs themselves. They should face the challenge and correct the current situation, as the UN agencies talk of shortage of funding for Darfur, given the portfolio of other humanitarian crisis under the umbrella of the UN. In addition, Abdullah reminds that international support can’t be an ever-lasting process.

Reference: http://news.sudanvisiondaily.com/article.html?rsnpaid=656
by Mohammed Abdullah (posted 05/06/2013)

Random thoughts

May 30, 2013
Syria:
Do you think, it is right for the EU to lift the arms embargo on Syria?
How do you think, the EU decision will impact the ongoing conflict parties (Syrian government, Syrian rebels, neighboring countries)
>>>>>

Displacement in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe: Move in the right direction on issue of rights for those internally displaced.

 

“The House of Assembly has ratified the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons. The African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons was signed in Kampala in 2009 and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was adopted on December 13 2006”.

This Kampala Declaration, adopted at the AU Summit is the first legally binding instrument specifically designed to assist the IDPs.

This move signals Zimbabwe’s government’s commitment to protect and help the IDPs who become displaced for a number of reasons. As we know globally the numbers of those internally displaced far exceeds the number of the refugees, for instance in Africa there are four times as many IDPs are refugees, who are not protected by international laws unlike the refugees who are protected by UN’s Refugee Convention.

“It reaffirms that national authorities have the primary responsibility to provide assistance to internally displaced people. It comprehensively addresses different causes of internal displacements; conflicts generalised violence, human cause or natural disasters and development projects like building dams or clearing only land for large scale agriculture.”

Sudha: May 20, 2013 2:39pm

Source: http://allafrica.com/stories/201305200341.html – May 20, 2013

Displacement in Myanmar

Sudha Rajput: May 29, 2013, 4:49pm
Extracted from source cited below

My title for today’s post: Why the displacement in Myanmar:
Myanmar’s 64 million people view the country’s 800,000 Rohingya as illegal migrants from what is now Bangladesh, and refer to them as Bengali.

President Thein Sein has tried to contain violence against Rohingya, who are denied citizenship in Myanmar, and other Muslims in the Buddhist-majority country, he has also allowed greater political freedom since taking power two years ago.

Fresh anti-Muslim violence broke out again on May 28, 2013 in northern Shan state when a mob torched a mosque, religious school and 11 shops after police refused to hand over a Muslim man accused of burning a Buddhist girl.

Per Human Rights Watch, 70 Rohingya were killed in a massacre in Mrauk-U township on Oct. 23, including 28 children who were hacked to death, part of violence in the region last year that killed 180 people and displaced more than 100,000. In March, anti-Muslim violence in central Myanmar killed more than 40 people, displaced 20,000 others and left about 1,400 buildings destroyed, including mosques.

Last month, a government commission investigating the violence in Rakhine state cited population growth as a factor fueling tensions between ethnic groups. While it proposed family planning measures, it said none should be discriminatory.
‘Cruel’ policy
“Implementation of this callous and cruel two-child policy against the Rohingya is an example of the systematic and wide ranging persecution of this group, the target of an ethnic cleansing campaign,” said, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Governments who care about reform in Burma need to speak out about the persecution.”
Source: http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/international/myanmar-tested-on-two-child-policy-for-rohingya/

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Sudha Rajput: May 24, 2013, 3:16pm

My title for this post: ‘Myanmar – why the effort is slow’

Myannmar: Rakhine:

Rakhine houses approximately 140,000 Internally Displaced People (IDPs) of the sectarian violence perpetrated on the Rohingya Muslims in 2012. Aid agencies such as the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) and Amnesty International, have been working to resolve the Rohingya crisis over the past year. Almost 70,000 IDPs remain in makeshift shelters in low-lying areas along the Bangladesh coast, which are highly susceptible to tidal surges and flooding. The flood waters from the neighboring Bangladesh make things work for those in the camps.

Complications with relocation of IDPs relates to the widespread anti-Muslim sentiment that took root in ethnic clashes between the Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims early last year. The government is wary of stirring up violent responses to their resettlement strategy, and finds itself with limited options.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Sudha Rajput: May 20,2013, 3:03 pm

Myanmar (neighbor of Bangladesh):

Myanmar, Rakhine state is full of makeshift settlements, housing up to 140,000 people, namely Rohingya Muslims — displaced by sectarian unrest that began in 2012, claiming many lives, and fracturing whole villages. The camps have been constructed from bamboo and tarpaulin, located in soggy paddy fields.

Rohingya are now totally dependent on humanitarian aid, with total segregation of Buddhist and Muslim communities.

Background; “Myanmar views its population of roughly 800,000 Rohingya as illegal Bangladeshi immigrants and denies them citizenship —considered by the United Nations to be one of the world’s most persecuted minorities…Attacks against Muslims — who make up an estimated 4 percent of the population — have spread to other parts of Myanmar, overshadowing widely praised political reforms as the country emerges from decades of military rule”. Finally after continuous warnings from rights groups and aid organizations, local authorities are now starting to build enough wooden shelters before the tents are swamped.

Ongoing cyclones and flood waters threaten the lives of those living in these camps.

Similarity between displaced Kashmiri Pandits: “The semi-permanence of the wooden structures has caused concern that they will prolong segregation of communities — a solution, albeit temporary, that was advocated by a recent official report on the unrest”. This is similar to the Kashmiri Pandit Jagti community housed in “township” like apartments as a temporary solution but now who find themselves totally isolated from Jammu’s mainstream. Understandably it is a challenge to provide the IDPs some form of permanence without creating barriers between this group and the locals. The reality is these camps often become permanent settlements. Just like with Kashmiri Pandit community the reasons behind the temporary shelters is the aim of eventually returning the displaced to their original communities. But with prolonged settlements, the IDPs begin to lose faith in the authorities.

Reference: http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/international/after-cyclone-myanmar-camps-face-monsoon-threat/

Oklahoma city – Tornado May 2013

Huge tornado levels Oklahoma City suburb, killing scores

my comment: no mention of those displaced, what happened to those who lost their homes, where did they go, how are they houses, how long will they be displaced, who ensures that they return to their homes or new homes.

full article from Washington Post here:

By Joel Achenbach, Published: May 20 E-mail the writer

A massive tornado up to a mile wide chewed through Moore, Okla., a suburb of Oklahoma City, on Monday afternoon, grinding up entire neighborhoods and obliterating an elementary school where students who had huddled in a hallway with their teachers were buried in rubble.

The state medical examiner’s office said late Monday that 51 people, including 20 children, had been confirmed killed in the tornado. “We’re sitting at 51, and the phone calls just keep coming,” said Amy Elliot, a spokeswoman for the office. Early Tuesday, she told the Associated Press that the medical examiner’s office had been told to expect another 40 bodies.

Some children were pulled — wet and dirty but alive — from the shredded Plaza Towers Elementary School. But as darkness fell Monday, dozens of rescuers in hard hats continued to pick through the wreckage looking for children and staffers who might be trapped.

Families were told to convene at two churches to await reunification with their loved ones.

“Our prayers are with you, and we’re working as quickly as we can to work through the debris,” said Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin.

Helicopter footage showed a wide path of near-total destruction in a community that had endured a similarly powerful twister 14 years ago. In addition to Plaza Towers, another elementary school, Briarwood, was demolished. All students at that school were accounted for, according to local news reports.

On the Enhanced Fujita damage scale of tornadoes, this was probably a 4 or 5, at the highest ends of violence, with winds reaching 200 miles per hour, said Russell Schneider, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., about eight miles from the path of the storm.

 

“It’s a very wide swath of very intense damage, a large number of structures almost totally destroyed,” Schneider said. “That in and of itself is usually indicative of a violent tornado, EF4 or EF5.”

Plaza Towers Elementary School, where scores of students took shelter as the twister approached, was destroyed. Nearby, cars and trucks were heaped on top of one another and homes were reduced to foundations covered with splintered wood.

“I’m sick to my stomach,” said Jayme Shelton, a spokesman for the city of Moore, reached by telephone. “Send your prayers this way.”

Shelton said the city’s roughly 160 police officers and firefighters were going door-to-door, checking for people who might be trapped in the rubble. Search-and-rescue teams poured in from every corner of the state.

“This is terrible. This is war-zone terrible,” said a helicopter reporter for KFOR-TV (Channel 4) in Oklahoma City. “This school is completely gone. . . . This whole area is destroyed. The houses are destroyed, completely leveled.”

The tornado outbreak was part of an explosion of violent weather that slashed the nation’s midsection, inciting severe-weather alerts from Texas to Michigan. The atmospheric conditions include a powerful weather system from the west colliding with warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico, a perfect recipe for tornadoes and super-cell thunderstorms, Schneider said. The bad weather will migrate to the east Tuesday.

The Storm Prediction Center counted nine tornadoes Monday in Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas, although that was a preliminary number based on witness reports. Although much of that region of the country is rural, one monster cell ground its way directly through the southern suburbs of the Oklahoma City metropolis — an urban hit that brought to mind the Tuscaloosa, Ala., tornado of April 27, 2011 (64 dead), and the Joplin, Mo., tornado on May 22 the same year (160 dead).

 

The strength of the big tornado that hit Moore will be determined in coming days after closer scrutiny of the damage. The twister was on the ground for 40 minutes, ravaging a 20-mile path, Schneider said.

“This was a very unfortunate path for this powerful storm,” he said. He noted that the likelihood of severe weather and tornadoes had been forecast many days in advance and that tornado watches had preceded the twister. But this was so powerful a storm, with such devastating winds, that people needed to be in basements or, better yet, a storm shelter, to be safe.

“You really need to be below ground,” Schneider said.

The residents there had seen this kind of thing before, on May 3, 1999, when more than 40 people were killed by a tornado that struck Moore, Newcastle, Del City, Stroud and other suburbs. That tornado reportedly spawned winds that reached 318 mph, the highest ever scientifically recorded, according to a 2005 story in USA Today.

“It’s as bad as it looks,” Rep. James Lankford (R), whose district includes most of neighboring Oklahoma City, said Monday evening as he left the House floor, checking his phone for updates.

The House will pause Tuesday for a moment of silence. On Monday night, President Obama spoke with Fallin to share his concern and assure the governor that the administration is ready to assist the state’s emergency responders. Late Monday, the president declared a major federal disaster and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts.

The injured were taken to multiple hospitals in the area, including 20 people, eight of them children, to Oklahoma University Medical Center, said spokesman Scott Coppenbarger.

About 60 people were taken to Norman Regional Hospital and Norman HealthPlex Hospital, said Kelly Wells, spokeswoman for Norman Regional Health Care. She described the injuries as “a lot of trauma, a lot of lacerations, a lot of broken bones. Typical tornado injuries. We’re no stranger to this out here.”

The two hospitals also received more than 30 patients from Moore Medical Center, the third hospital in Norman Regional’s network, which was destroyed by the tornado, Wells said.

By Monday evening, a Facebook page created to help connect survivors with loved ones had a growing number of posts, most from people searching for the missing.

“Looking for my Aunt Iris Irwin,” read one post.

“Looking for 5yo Harry,” read another.

Lenny Bernstein, Brady Dennis, Darryl Fears and Jason Samenow contributed to this report.

source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/huge-tornado-levels-oklahoma-city-suburb-killing-dozens/2013/05/20/3cb4a08a-c19d-11e2-ab60-67bba7be7813_story.html

Future of African Union – May 22 20113

Future of the African Union

The AU has helped throw off colonialism and resolve conflicts since its birth in 1963. But can it answer the desire for democracy among many Africans?

 The African Union (AU) is now 50 years old. Amid the celebrations this week, the AU – which was established as the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1963 (pdf) – needs to take stock of its strengths and weaknesses as an intergovernmental organisation designed to promote the pan-African agenda politically and economically. As articulated by the leading figures of pan-Africanism, that agenda consists of a three-dimensional project of political self-determination, economic self-reliance, and solidarity in the promotion and defence of African interests nationally and internationally.

The OAU came into existence as a compromise between the radical pan-Africanism of leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah, who advocated a union government and a continental military high command, and the more conservative outlook of the pro-western leaders of Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Liberia, who insisted on a gradual approach to African economic and political integration.

Despite the antagonistic positions separating them, the groups were both favourable to setting up a pan-African institution based on the principles of state sovereignty, non-interference in the internal affairs of member states and the inviolability of national boundaries.

 

Within the global context of the cold war, the more limited goals of the OAU were (1) the total independence of Africa from colonialism and white settler rule; (2) the peaceful resolution of interstate conflicts through negotiation, mediation and conciliation; and (3) greater solidarity and economic co-operation.

Decolonisation and majority rule, particularly in the colonial-settler states of Algeria, Kenya and South Africa where racism was institutionalised, were a major achievement of the project. The culminating event was the liberation of South Africa from apartheid in 1994, ending 82 years of struggle led by the African National Congress and 31 years of support by the continent through the OAU.

This unswerving opposition to white minority rule and colonialism is undoubtedly the OAU’s greatest achievement. It succeeded in mobilising African and world opinion against colonialists in the Portuguese colonies and settler states of Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The worldwide isolation of the apartheid state of South Africa, including its exclusion from international organisations and sporting events, was spearheaded by the OAU. And the OAU African Liberation Committee deserves praise for its outstanding work in supporting armed struggle in Guinea-Bissau and southern Africa. Guinea, Tanzania, Zambia, Angola, Mozambique and Zimbabwe also made great sacrifices in supporting total liberation from colonial oppression.

The OAU also had some achievements in conflict resolution, particularly mediating in border disputes, the major area of interstate conflict in Africa. However, most of the armed conflicts since independence have been internal rather than interstate. As a pan-African organisation, the OAU had an obligation to address such conflicts, inasmuch as they involved gross violations of human rights, including cases of genocide, and had a humanitarian dimension in the large number of refugees and internally displaced people they generated.

Unfortunately, the OAU failed to exercise its right of intervention in cases of state-sponsored terrorism and heinous crimes, including ethnic cleansing and genocide. The organisation expressed little or no solidarity with Africans facing mortal danger from their own governments and never recognised the legitimacy of African struggles against African tyrants. In 1979, when President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania took the courageous decision to pursue invading Ugandan troops all the way to Kampala and assist Ugandan patriots in overthrowing the regime of Idi Amin Dada, he found very little support among his African peers.

Things changed for the better in the 1990s, particularly with the adoption in 1993 in Cairo of the OAU mechanism for conflict prevention, management and resolution, which gave the organisation a role in internal conflicts. Since replacing the OAU in 2002, the AU has increased its intervention in domestic affairs. Both the AU commission and the regional economic communities (RECs) have played a useful role, sending peacekeeping forces to countries in turmoil. The RECs seem to be playing a greater role in resolving internal conflicts than in promoting economic co-operation and integration.

A major problem confronting the AU is resources. With so much dependence on the EU and other external funding, questions arise about African ownership and initiative in some of the theatres of intervention. In addition to governments’ lack of political will, the lack of resources for peace and security, as well as economic co-operation, is partly because countries are also members of multiple regional institutions. It is not uncommon for a country to belong to three or more regional economic groups. By spreading themselves thin, countries deprive institutions of the skills and money they need. This raises the question of how strongly committed Africa’s leaders are to economic and political integration.

This is at the heart of the AU’s future. Its neoliberal development programme, Nepad, is less suited to the needs of workers and peasants than the more comprehensive development strategy of the Lagos plan of action, adopted in 1980. As an organisation that reflects the social character of the states composing it, most of which are under authoritarian rulers who cling to power through force and electoral fraud, the AU is ill-equipped to meet people’s aspirations for democracy and social progress.

Reference: http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/poverty-matters/2013/may/21/african-union-serve-africa-50-years  May 22, 2013

News from Kashmiri Pandits

Sudha Rajput
June 12, 2013, 7:07 pm

Extracted from the story in Kashmir Times
By P.N. Sus
June 2013
The willingness shown for their [KP families] return and rehabilitation under the PMs package is more a mirage than a reality. These are the only occasions where we see such expression to show its existence. It is a skillful trend observed when the elections are drawing near and the power icons start campaigning by spewing sugar coated pills to draw political mileage. In the last two decades there has not been a whisper of word about their package of return.
More than two decades have passed and we are away from our homes. We have houses but not homes. What has been the contribution of the government for KPs rehabilitation can be seen from how they were thrown listlessly on cross roads, picked up from dust and pushed in one room tenements worse than the ghettos of Nazi Germany in Hitler’s time. Next step taken by the government is rehabilitating them at Jagti. Are we to understand that we.. have no right to live like other citizens with dignity, rights and privileges. The half hearted efforts of the centre and state government for our rehabilitation is despicable… The greatest challenge before the community is that we are marching towards fatal end of extinction. We know that there are hearts who bleed for us. But there are agencies who stand as blocks in our return.
Talks, dialogue inside the state and outside with neighbors have been more a show than indication of seriousness to resolve the issue.
—P.N. Sus,
129 Surya Vihar, Bhori, Jammu.
http://www.kashmirtimes.com/newsdet.aspx?q=15439

Sudha Rajput
June 12, 2013, 6:51 pm
A look at the historic and ancient temples that the KP families left behind in the Valley, at the time of their eviction in 1989.

The latest reports note that many historic and ancient temples that the Kashmiri Pandit families revered, back in the Valley, have now been neglected, torched, purposely destroyed and are in ruins. Unfortunately when they are torched nothing is done about it, making them the “worst victims of the genocide and exile of the Hindu community” (niticentral.com). With the forceful eviction of the Hindu families, naturally the Valley has lost its caretakers and the trustees of such icons. Even State authorities admit and are aware of the fact that as many as 200 temples have been damaged over “two decades of militancy in the Valley” (ibid).
The dilemma is in the absence of the Hindu devotees, who should care for these temples, the Kashmiri Muslims?
http://www.niticentral.com/2013/04/20/hindu-shrines-under-threat-in-jk-68599.html

Internal Displacement of Kashmiri Pandits:

Based on the premise that 250,000 people were displaced from the Kashmir Valley, beginning in 1989, my doctoral research led me to investigate the reasons why, even after 22 yrs of their displacement, people had not been able to return to their homes, and that more people had fled since that time.  This is given the fact that there are ‘return policies’ in place. I was looking for clues, which seemed to be embedded in the positions and perspectives of different actors of this displacement.  To get to the bottom of the matter, I thought it important to investigate the worldviews of all key actors of this displacement, namely the policymakers, policy implementers, the relevant NGOs, members of the host communities and the displaced themselves.