War and Peace
Mayi-Mayi militiamen in Maniema Province, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), have been holding 25 vaccinators hostage for nearly two weeks, the UN mission in the country, known as MONUC, reported on August 11.
Speaking to the UN's Radio Okapi, one vaccinator who escaped said that the Mayi-Mayi suspected the vaccinators of being spies for the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD-Goma), a former rebel movement.
The escapee said that his colleagues were captured in the village of Ngongomeka, 40 km outside the town of Kalima, which is 80 km northeast of Kindu, capital of Maniema.
In the national capital, Kinshasa, neither the leaders of the Mayi-Mayi nor RCD-Goma - both members of the Congo's recently inaugurated two-year transitional government who have until now controlled vast regions of eastern DRC - were able to confirm the report.
The village of Ngongomeka is within one of many zones targeted by a national vaccination campaign against polio that was launched on July 25. The campaign aims to reach an estimated 7.3 million children under five years old in the provinces of Bandundu, Bas-Congo, Equateur, Kasai Oriental and Occidental, Katanga, Maniema, North and South Kivu.
At the time the campaign was launched, the UN Children's Fund, the World Health Organisation and local health and political authorities appealed to combatants to ensure safe passage for polio vaccinators so that they might reach all children in eastern DRC, where there is fighting among armed factions. (Source: IRIN)
Two humanitarian workers have been killed and a third injured by unidentified gunmen in northern Eritrea.
The three Eritreans, who were working for the US charity Mercy Corps, came under attack on August 10 morning when gunmen opened fire on their vehicle using automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), humanitarian sources said on August 12.
The attack took place near Adobha, in northern Eritrea, where Mercy Corp was carrying out a water project assessment. The driver, who was injured, was reportedly taken to hospital in the town of Keren.
Mercy Corps has been working in Eritrea since the mid-1980s, with programmes aimed empowering local community groups and improving nutrition, as well as assisting Eritrean refugees in Sudan. (Source: IRIN)
Ethiopia and Eritrea could face the threat of US sanctions on development and military aid if they fail to speed up implementation of the contested border ruling. Four congressmen have backed a bill in the House of Representatives urging the US to restrict support to both countries if they do not comply with the peace deal.
In particular they have demanded that Ethiopia ends its "intransigence" in implementing the ruling by The Hague-based independent boundary commission.
Democrat Tom Lantos lodged the bill in mid-July, supported by fellow democrats Donald Payne and Eliot Engel, and republican Edward Royce who chairs the international relations sub- committee on Africa. The bill has been referred to the International Relations committee.
Ethiopia and Eritrea agreed, under the terms of the Algiers peace agreement signed in December 2000 after a bitter two-year war, to abide by an independent ruling on the border which would be "final and binding".
But demarcation of the new border has now been delayed twice because Ethiopia is opposing the decision, which has awarded contested territories to Eritrea. (Source: IRIN)
As former Liberian president Charles Taylor spent his first day in exile in Nigeria, a war crimes tribunal in Sierra Leone reiterated its demand that he be sent to face trial in Freetown.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International also urged Nigeria, which has granted Taylor political asylum, to extradite him to Sierra Leone.
The UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone said in a statement that Taylor left Liberia as "an indicted war criminal and remains an indicted war criminal."
It published charges against Taylor on June 4 for his role in backing a notoriously brutal rebel movement in Sierra Leone during the 1990's in return for smuggled Sierra Leonean diamonds and issued. At the same time, the court issued an international warrant for his arrest.
"Taylor's departure was not accompanied by any promise of amnesty or legal barrier to prosecution and that demonstrates significant progress," the court said. It called on the international community to ensure that he stands trial, along with a dozen other key players in Sierra Leone's 1991-2001 civil war.
Taylor has been charged with serious violations of the Geneva Convention, which establishes the rules of warfare, and crimes against humanity.
The court alleges that he is among those who bear the greatest responsibility for widespread and systematic rape, murder, physical violence, including mutilation and amputation and other atrocities in Sierra Leone through his support and guidance of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebel movement. (Source: IRIN)
The government of the Netherlands will assist Rwanda in its programme of demobilisation and reintegration of former combatants, disarmament of former Rwandan Armed Forces soldiers and other armed groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Radio Rwanda reported on August 12.
The pledge was made at a meeting between President Paul Kagame and two Dutch ministers who are on a tour of the Great Lakes region. Foreign Minister Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and Development and Cooperation Minister Agnes van Ardenne met Kagame in the capital, Kigali.
The ministers are visiting five countries in the region to offer their government's help with politics, diplomacy and development in order to promote regional peace, security and stability.
The radio reported that the army chief of staff, Brig-Gen Charles Kayonga also held talks with the Dutch ministers on security and stability within the region. It reported that after the meeting, Ardenne told reporters that the international community was willing to support the region in solving its political problems. (Source: IRIN)
Uncertainty hung over Somalia's Transitional National Government (TNG) on August 12 after prime minister Hassan Abshir Farah announced that the TNG's mandate would finish on August 13 at the end of its three-year term.
But TNG President Abdiqassim Salad Hassan, who sacked Hassan Abshir along with parliament speaker Abdallah Derow Isaak at the weekend, has said the interim government will continue until new institutions are formed through free and fair elections. Last month, Abdiqassim walked out of peace talks underway in Kenya saying they were leading towards the "dismemberment" of Somalia.
In a written statement issued in Nairobi on August 12 Hassan Abshir and Abdallah Derow Isaak said any attempt to extend the period of the TNG was "unconstitutional".
"We, as the representatives of the TNG, are prepared and willing to hand over power to any duly constituted government that emerges from this conference," they said. (Source: IRIN)
Sudanese peace talks have reopened in Kenya with the government side saying its opposition to a draft agreement presented by mediators last month is unlikely to scuttle the peace process.
Sudan's deputy ambassador to Kenya Muhammad Ahmad Dirdeiry said on August 12 that although his government had rejected the draft as a basis for negotiation, he was hopeful that the talks - which resumed on August 11 - would result in a "more reasonable" draft.
"We don't feel that our position will scuttle the process. This is not the first draft that we have disagreed with. It happens all the time," Dirdeiry stated.
The talks to end Sudan's 20-year civil war, hit a snag in July after the Sudanese government rejected the draft agreement presented by mediators from the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in the Kenyan town of Nakuru.
The rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) also had reservations about the draft, but agreed to use the document as a basis for further negotiation.
The chairman of the African Union, Amara Essy, on August 11 urged both parties to "muster the necessary political will and commitment for a lasting peace and reconciliation".
"The people of the Sudan expect and deserve peace to end the trauma caused by the conflict and the humanitarian tragedies that many have experienced in the country," he said.
The Belgian based think-tank, International Crisis Group (ICG), has described the ongoing round of talks as "make or break" for the country's peace process. It said this was "the best chance for peace in 20 years", and warned that the war could become "more deadly than ever" if the opportunity was missed. (Source: IRIN)