Life-Changing Water Found Below Kenya's Surface

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Jessamy Nichols, Africa CorrespondentLast Modified:12:28 p.m. DST, 23 September 2013

African Child Drinking Clean Water, Photo by The OptimizersKENYA, Africa - The Lake Turkana region of Kenya is known for the skeleton found in the region that dates back to 1.5 million years ago, making it one of the suspected origin locations for humans.

Over the eons of cradling human civilizations, the Turkana region has gradually become more and more arid over time to become the drought-stricken area it is today.

However, there has been a recent discovery by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) that revealed that below the region's surface, there is 200 billion cubic meters of freshwater reserves in an underground aquifer. Furthermore, this vast supply can supply the entire country's population of 42 million people for 70 years!

This statistic is an unbelievable figure, as this water source has the potential to completely change the livelihoods of Kenya's 17 million citizens who lack access to safe water.

Despite this highly welcomed news, it is imperative that the Kenyan government assures that the water is managed and distributed in an equitable, appropriate manner. The supply has grand economic potential, but the country's leaders should instead look to the human rights potential and ensure that the masses have access to it. Fulfilling people's right to clean water could completely change the lives of millions and improve the standard of living.

This is a crucial opportunity for Kenya and the following decisions about the aquifer could play a huge rule in the country's trajectory.

Follow Jessamy on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Africa Correspondent: @JessamyNichols

Action Needed on Iranian Hostage Situation

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Jessamy Nichols, Africa CorrespondentLast Modified: 14:41 p.m. DST, 16 September 2013

Omid Dana, Iranian Dissident in danger of execution, Photo by Robert Reed Daly

CAMP ASHRAF, Iran - On 1 September 2013, Iraqi soldiers led by a member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard entered Camp Ashraf in Iraq and proceeded to kill 52 members and take 7 hostage of the Iranian dissident movement, the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran (PMOI).

With ties growing stronger every day between Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the Ayatollah Khamenei of Iran, an attack on the unarmed residents of Ashraf appears to have only been a matter of time, as the other PMOI camp, Liberty, has already been targeted several times.

After eleven days of pressure, Iraq, a staunch ally of Iran’s government, finally admitted on September 12th to having the hostages in custody. Several human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International, have released statements urging action to be taken as the hostages are at risk of being sent back to Iran to face execution at the hands of the Revolutionary Guard.

Furthermore, the remaining residents in Camp Ashraf, many of whom were injured in the raid, are being moved to Camp Liberty, which further exacerbates the ongoing refugee situation there. This tense situation has the potential to explode into further violence if further action is not taken by the international community promptly. Otherwise, the Iranian and Iraqi governments may feel emboldened to continue these threatening actions.

This incident comes at a critical time in terms of the global agenda as President Obama has given the Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power the mandate to press forward on human rights, as well as Iran being on the agenda of next month’s UN General Assembly meeting. With attention shifting towards Iran in the midst of Syria’s chaos, Rouhani and his leaders should be pushed to explain the attack, ensure the release of the hostages, and assure freedom from persecution for opposition groups.

Follow Jessamy on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Africa Correspondent: @JessamyNichols

Central African Republic's Tragic Conditions

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Jessamy Nichols, Africa CorrespondentLast Modified: 21:41 p.m. DST, 12 September 2013

CAR Malaria Victim Helped by Aid Victim, Photo by Merlin-Frédéric Courbet-PanosCENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC, Africa - A few United Nations agencies have released new reports that disclose the dire statistics of the current status of the Central African Republic (CAR). Although a peace agreement was reached in January between the national government and the Séléka rebel coalition, the rebels soon reclaimed the capital of Bangui and have since repeatedly stirred up violence and lawlessness through the volatile country.

The newest UN reports reveal that villages are still being burned to the ground by armed militants which has forced thousands to flee their homes and seek basic human necessities. It is has been calculated that over a third of the country's population of 4.6 million people are in desperate need of food, shelter, healthcare, water, protection and sanitation.

This is clearly a huge humanitarian crisis, and poses a threat to the ever-increasing unstable region. The DRC to the south has its own civil conflict raging on, and refugees from the CAR are fleeing into neighboring Chad and Cameroon daily.

As torture, looting, kidnapping, assaults and extortion continue through the country, UN agencies are trying to provide all of the assistance they can, but it is imperative that the central government regain control of the country and put an end to the rebels' stronghold on power. As long as the rebels have unchecked power, they will continue to ravage the countryside for food, supplies, and potential human capital.

Follow Jessamy on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Africa Correspondent: @JessamyNichols

Kenya Reneges on Promise to Election Violence Victims

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Jessamy Nichols, Africa Correspondent
Last Modified: 00:31 a.m. DST, 10 September 2013

Victims of 2007 Kenya Post-Election Violence, Photo by Martin NduguKENYA, Africa - At the close of 2007, Kenya held Presidential elections between Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga that resulted in months of atrocious violence and mass chaos. The eruption of killings resulted from the ethnic cleavages between the two candidates, as Kibaki is from the Kikuyu ethnic group and Odinga is from the Luo group. Once Kibaki was declared the winner despite widespread electoral fraud and manipulation, opposition groups revolted at the results and chose to make a stand.

However, this resulted in citizens, mostly of opposition Luo ethnicity, targeting Kikuyu citizens and brutally killing hundreds of them. Eventually, some Kikuyus retaliated and murdered citizens of Luo and Kalenjin descent. The few months of violence resulted in over a thousand deaths, and around two hundred thousand displaced persons. This is still a huge issue for the country today as thousands of citizens continue to live in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps that lack proper shelter, running water and basic education and healthcare.

One such example is an IDP camp called Jikaze that is in the Great Rift Valley and is about a twenty minute ride from Limuru. I've visited and worked in the camp twice, and have met the most wonderful, loving people who despite having their lives turned upside down, continue to be hopeful for the future. One couple in the camp owned a hotel before the 2007 election, but had it burned to the ground in the violence and went from being well-off to having nothing. Another family went from having acres of fertile land and a profitable farming business to running for their lives and starting from scratch. Some members of the camp lost family members in the violence and will never be able to return to their old home.

Now, imagine these Kenyans who have spent over five years healing and rebuilding their lives, to now find out that the Kenyan government will not fulfill its promise to face justice and seek justice for the victims of the post-election violence. This week, the Kenyan Parliament voted to remove themselves from the Rome Statute that would ensure that the national government sought justice and reparations for the hundreds of thousands of victims of the violence. Although it has been many years and many citizens have found a new way forward, they still deserve the justice and help that the government owes them. Without fulfilling their promise, not only are they abandoning their citizens again, but are setting a disappointing precedent for government accountability.

On a similar note, the Parliament also voted this week to remove themselves from the International Criminal Court (ICC) in order to avoid many of their prominent leaders' indictment and trials. Considering Kenya's growing economic and regional power potential, it is a nasty setback that the government is moving backwards in reneging on international standards and human rights laws. The international community, including the US, has released statements urging Kenya to fulfill their commitments and remain accountable to its people.

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Twitter: @nahmias_report
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United Nations Accused of Cholera Outbreak Coverup

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Alex Hamasaki, Student InternLast Modified: 23:41 p.m. EDT, 4 March 2013

Zimbabwe, Children Carrying Water, Photo Courtesy of IRIN NewsOn March 1, 2013, Aljazeera reported that the United Nations (UN) was accused of covering up the 2008 cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe. The UN dispute tribunal in Nairobi, Kenya, found that the UN did not inform the Robert Mugabe government of the potential for a cholera outbreak.

Aljazeera further reported that George Tadonki, the then head of the UN humanitarian office in Zimbabwe, warned his superiors of the potential outbreak, but no actions were taken.

Tadonki claims that he was fired in January 2009 in part because he “sounded the alarm about the cholera crisis.” Supposedly, the UN did not want to upset the government of Robert Mugabe, therefore did not warn the government of the upcoming outbreak. Tadonki pursued the issue, and the UN dispute tribunal in Nairobi ruled that he was unjustifiably removed from his job.

The UN dispute tribunal concluded that there should be disciplinary action taken against four senior UN officials, including the former humanitarian chief of the UN, John Holmes. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) told Aljazeera that they intend to appeal the judgment.

Upon reading reports of this incident, I embarked on an effort to verify the Aljazeera news report. I was unable to located independent verification of Tadonki's assertions on any news sources. This seemed inconsistent and smacked of a coverup given the magnitude of this story both in terms of the adverse health impact, as well as the political ramifications of an organization as high-profile as the UN failure to live up to one of its core tenets.

I finally found the original report, Tadonki v. Secretary-General of the United Nations, Case number NDT/NBI/2009/36, on the United Nations Dispute Tribunal website. Published on February 26, 2013, the report suggested that the failure of the UNCHA to renew Tadonki’s contract was “unlawful,” and that the UNCHA ignored humanitarian values in their dealings with Tadonki. Further, the UN report said on page 304 of their report, the Applicant being Tadonki:

308. Even ASG [Assistant Secretary-General] Bragg had testified that there were problems with the RC/HC and Mr. Mukhtar and that the UNCT was weak so that by January 2009 deaths from cholera had reached the thousands. In spite of this, the Tribunal finds that whenever something went wrong in Zimbabwe at the material time, the blame was laid at the door of the Applicant. It appeared that while he achieved some positive results no credit was given to him. In fact, ASG Bragg told the Tribunal that the achievements made by the Applicant in Zimbabwe were nothing extraordinary because it was his job. Management listened to rumours from all quarters instead of objectively assessing the situation and the performance of the Applicant.

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Published: 4 March 2013 (Page 2 of 2)

309. The matter of the Applicant’s said interpersonal relationships with some of those in the humanitarian community in Zimbabwe at the material time and the criticisms of him by these people or groups constituted the singular issue that informed his removal by OCHA. The critical question is: what was the Applicant doing wrong? Principal among his wrongdoing is that by the time he had spent one month in the country, he had published an early warning ˗ suggesting that the UNCT, which had been operating before he came on the scene was ill prepared for an impending humanitarian crisis. In spite of the fact that no one could successfully counter his prediction, he appeared to have stepped on some big toes by stating the obvious. Thus the Applicant, a new-comer, had attempted to upset the applecart in a situation where, clearly, humanitarian considerations only played second fiddle to political issues.

There are several inconsistencies in the initial two paragraphs alone. First of all, this is unlike any UN report I’ve ever read. As a previous member of Model UN, we read several UN reports, none of which were this informal.

Second, the tribunal in Nairobi claims, “whenever something went wrong in Zimbabwe at the material time, the blame was laid at the door of the Applicant.” Ignoring informalities, the suggestion that “whenever something went wrong” is extremely ambiguous, and the tribunal could hence claim that the UN blamed Tandonki for anything including actions he had no control over.

Third, the report leaves me unclear to why the UN didn’t want to upset the corrupt government of Mugabe. Mugabe is responsible for a multitude of human rights violations during the time that Mr. Tandoki was stationed there. If the UN was attempting to cover up the outbreak, then we have an example of a serious violation of human rights.

This an ultimate lack of transparency for the UN, which was established in part to encourage transparency. Further, this suggests that the UN is in collusion with Mugabe. One can speculate that the UN nations did not want to upset Mugabe because they wanted to remain in Zimbabwe to continue humanitarian operations. Hence, attempting to move Tadonki to the OCHA Regional Office in Johannesburg to take the position of Senior Humanitarian Affairs Officer in order to cover up the cholera outbreak. Further, if the UN was ill prepared as this report suggested, then what exactly is our money doing?

This leaves me at another set of problems. Was the government of Kenya involved in the tribunal’s decision to find the UN guilty of covering up a cholera outbreak? Kenya and Zimbabwe have a long history of conflict, and further considering the strangely informal wording of the report, I am left suspicious. Further, I was unable to find any concrete information about the Nairobi dispute tribunal itself.

Perhaps this is just the tale of the disgruntled employee. Angry that the OCHA was not going to renew his contract, Tadonki made up the tale that the UN was covering up the cholera outbreak. When the tribunal in Kenya caught wind of this story, Kenya was eager to find a reason to prosecute their long-term enemy, and thus produced this report.

Ultimately, I am unable to ascertain what really happened in Zimbabwe in 2008. Is the UN caught up in a conspiracy of colluding with a corrupt government to cover up a cholera outbreak warning? Is Tadonki just upset that he got fired, and Kenya wanted to find a chance to stick it to their enemy? These are all questions that should have been asked in advance of publicizing this story, but regardless of the internal machinations of this organization, the internecine intrigue between Kenya and Zimbabwe, the ultimate victims are the Zimbabwean people who continue to suffer from lack of access to basic necessities such as clean water.

Follow Alex Hamasaki on Twitter
Twitter: @nahmias_report Student Intern: @aghamasaki
 
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Sources: Aljazeera; Tadonki v. Secretary-General of the United Nations, Case number NDT/NBI/2009/36

Time to take early action before another Horn of Africa drought

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A global alarm has been sounded by several aid NGOs warning of the imminent but avoidable famine that could lead to the deaths of thousands in the Horn of Africa. The United Kingdom organization, The Department for International Development (DFID) reported that between 50,000 and 100,000 people, more than half of them children under five, died in the 2011 Horn of Africa crisis that affected Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya.

The destruction of livestock, farms, and local market systems contributed to widespread starvation. US government estimated that the greatest number of casualties were among children under the age of five years. According to reports, in the 90 days between May and July of 2011 more than 29,000 children perished.

Save the Children and Oxfam, have both criticized the current emergency response systems operating in West Africa and the Sahel as seriously flawed and thus ill-equipped to manage the impending food shortage crisis.

"Early warning systems in the Sahel region show that overall cereal production is 25% lower than the previous year and food prices are 40% higher than the five-year average. The last food crisis in the region, in 2010, affected 10 million people," the report warns. (Source: Oxfam)