Date: Friday, 02 February 2018
Every week, IRIN’s team of specialist editors scans the humanitarian horizon to curate a reading list on important and unfolding trends and events around the globe:
Kenya stumbles into an avoidable crisis
Tensions are running high in Kenya. After opposition leader Raila Odinga swore himself in as “the people’s president” this week – in defiance of the official election result – the government responded by shutting down three private broadcasters that aired the ceremony. A high court has ordered the restoration of the TV transmissions, but the government is still chasing opposition activists, arresting today the self-declared “General” of the National Resistance Movement, Miguna Miguna, who officiated at the event.
Odinga and his NASA coalition insist he was robbed in the 2017 elections, which were run twice. Western envoys have condemned Odinga’s high-tension swearing-in move, which earned a sharp rebuke by sections of Kenyans on Twitter, particularly over the role of foreign election monitors. The International Crisis Group appealed last week for both sides to show restraint. It urged Odinga to call off his swearing-in; for the government to agree to an audit of Kenya’s electoral authorities; and then for the convening of some form of national convention “to discuss reforms to lower the stakes of political competition”. Underlining the gravity of the situation, a new Brookings report noted that anyone concerned about peace, security, and human progress in Africa generally, and in East Africa in particular, should be keenly following the ongoing governance and constitutional developments in Kenya.
Pakistan’s short Afghan reprieve leaves refugees in limbo
Authorities in Pakistan have extended a deportation deadline for Afghan refugees by only 60 days. The brief reprieve – the government had been asked to consider a five-month extension – is fuelling concerns that authorities may soon push to send Afghans back to a country mired in violence. There are some 1.3 million registered Afghan refugees living in Pakistan, along with at least 600,000 people who are undocumented. Pakistan has frequently pressured Afghans to leave – more than 700,000 Afghans returned from Pakistan in 2016 and 2017. But aid groups say the recent uncertainty has not yet translated into widespread crackdowns on Afghan refugee communities on the ground. Even so, the prospect of another large-scale influx is troubling for aid groups in Afghanistan, which has been hit by multiple high-profile insurgent attacks in recent weeks. Conflict displaced more than 470,000 people in Afghanistan last year, while brazen attacks on a luxury hotel in Kabul and the Jalalabad office of the NGO Save the Children are further signs of the mounting insecurity in the country. Statistics released by the US military this week show that the Afghan government’s hold over its own territory continues to be eroded. It now has control or influence in only 56 percent of the country’s 407 districts – the lowest level in more than two years.
Read IRIN’s recent reporting on Afghanistan’s cycle of migration: Even as returns surge from Pakistan, Iran, and Europe, many Afghans are still looking for the exits.
Fraying alliances in Aden
It was not a good week for Aden, Yemen’s southern port city. A longstanding rivalry between southern separatists and forces loyal to the government of internationally recognised (but deposed) President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi bubbled up into fighting on the streets and heavy artillery and tank fire, leaving 38 dead and 222 wounded since 28 January (by the ICRC’s count). Aden’s airport and seaports were closed, civilians were trapped in their homes, and humanitarians working out of the city had to delay planned shipments of food and other aid. After three days of clashes, there appears to be a Saudi Arabian-mediated détente between the ostensible allies, and life is returning to semi-normal, with businesses and banks open. But this will not be the last you hear of the ever-growing antagonisms within the Saudi Arabia-led coalition.
No way home for Libyan minority
Members of Libya’s 40,000-strong Tawergha minority who have been kept from their town of the same name since they were accused of siding with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi during his 2011 overthrow were disappointed yet again this week in their quest to go home. Fayez al-Sarraj, prime minister of the UN-backed Government of National Accord, had said a deal had been struck to allow the Tawergha to return to their town in northern Libya on 1 February. But an attempt by some 150 Tawerghans to make it to the town – which is largely in ruins – was stopped by forces from Misrata, one of the major anti-Gaddafi strongholds seven years ago. It seems that the reconciliations and preparations (both official and unofficial) that brought about the 1 February deadline haven’t been enough to heal old wounds. For now, at least, the Tawergha will remain in the camps they’ve been forced to call home for several years already.
Crypto windfall for UNICEF?
If you thought blockchain hype had already peaked, you may be wrong. UNICEF France is encouraging the public to mine cryptocurrency for them. A normal computer can slowly generate virtual currency – especially one with the powerful graphics subsystems preferred by gamers. UNICEF has paired up with French communication firm BETC and developer Make me Pulse to set up a website to encourage the public to donate spare capacity on their computers to run code that generates the currency Ethereum. At the time of writing, the site, www.chaingers.io, has recruited 12 volunteer miners, whose efforts will go towards UNICEF's work in Syria. So far the earnings are only $43.15, according to the balance held in the account listed for the UNICEF donations (and the volatile exchange rate of today). But one UK charity analyst, at least, reckons it might be a smart call:
— Rhodri Davies ☕️ (@Rhodri_H_Davies) February 2, 2018
Plenty has been written about the European Union’s proclivity for outsourcing its migration control to African countries, along with a healthy development cheque, granted. But most of the coverage thus far has focused on places like Libya and Niger, so it was about time the spotlight shone on the EU’s $200 million deal with Sudan. For this special IRIN report, investigative journalist Caitlin Chandler interviewed dozens of Eritrean and Ethiopian asylum seekers in Khartoum and the eastern city of Kassala. What she found should give the EU pause: allegations Sudanese officials are complicit in abuse and extortion; traffickers exploiting the situation to beat and torture vulnerable migrants and refugees; an increasingly brutal crackdown that sees people routinely rounded up and detained in Khartoum. The EU insists use of its money is carefully monitored and goes to training and equipment for border police, capacity building for the judiciary, and legal reforms to encourage the arrest and prosecution of traffickers and smugglers. But given that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court to answer for alleged war crimes in Darfur and other parts of Sudan, it all begs the question: is this really a man who can be trusted?
(TOP PHOTO: Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga addresses a National Super Alliance (NASA) rally in October 2017)