Sunday, April 22, 2012

Iranian peacekeepers deployed in Darfur to help UN mission-PressTV

PressTV - Iranian peacekeepers deployed in Darfur to help UN mission: "

'via Blog this'Iranian peacekeepers deployed in Darfur to help UN mission
File photo shows Iranian peacekeepers during a military march in Tehran.
Sat Apr 21, 2012 3:40PM
A group of Iranian peacekeepers have been deployed in the Darfur region of Sudan within the framework of the United Nations mission in the African country.

Iran dispatched peacekeeping forces to the Horn of Africa in 2003 amid heated border disputes between Ethiopia and Eritrea in order to help the two countries determine common borders, Fars News Agency reported.

Peacekeeping troops from Iran have also been deployed on various occasions in North Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Darfur region and are currently helping the UN mission in Darfur.

The Iranian Army’s peacekeeping unit was established in 1992 in order to take part in humanitarian missions worldwide.

According to Commander of Iran's Army Brigadier General Ataollah Salehi, the United Nations holds special training courses for Iranian peacekeepers and pays periodic visits to them in Iran.

Last October, Commander of the Iranian Army's Ground Forces Brigadier General Ahmad-Reza Pourdastan voiced Iran's readiness to send peacekeepers to any region requested by the United Nations.

"Undertaking peacekeeping missions by the Iranian [military] forces indicates the power and strength of Iran's Armed Forces," he added.

Pourdastan said Iranian peacekeepers have learned English, Arabic and French due to the special nature of their missions, adding that they are trained in necessary skills for such missions.

South Sudan became independent through a referendum in April 2010 after years of civil war, from 1955 to 2005, between southern and northern parts of the country, which left at least 2 million Sudanese dead.

A peace agreement was signed between the two sides on January 9, 2005, which put an end to the civil war and made way for the southern part of Sudan to choose between union with the north or independence.

In the referendum that was held on January 9, 2011, South Sudan gained independence and the new African state was officially born six months after the peace agreement on July 9, 2011.

The United Nations Peacekeeping mission began in 1948 when the Security Council authorized the deployment of UN military observers to the Middle East. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

East African Talking truth to power

SECURITY: Talking truth to power

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni (right) and Libyan national and executive secretary of the North African Regional Capability force (NARC) Brig-Gen Hadi Ali Gibril talk following a spat at the security conference
BAHIR DAR, 19 April 2012 (IRIN) - On the surface it had all the trappings of a gathering of current and former heads of state: Legions of presidential bodyguards speaking into their sleeves, electronic security at every entrance, rooftop snipers, road closures and a small army of waiters serving snacks and coffee on the banks of Ethiopia’s Lake Tana. 

To the casual observer it was indistinguishable from any meeting of African Union (AU) luminaries, but at the opening session of the inaugural 14-15 April Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa, chaired by former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, it became apparent diplomatic protocols were to be dispensed with: In an act of pure theatre Obasanjo removed his formal traditional robe to highlight the intent of informality. 

The Tana conference, coordinated by Addis Ababa University’s Institute for Peace and Security Studies, borrowed elements from the Munich Security Conference founded by German publisher Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist-Schmenzin, who recognized diplomatic protocol can often stymie debate. 

Oliver Rolofs, spokesperson for the Munich conference, told IRIN the meeting provides an “open forum and free discussion” and acts as a “catalyst” for security issues providing fresh ideas and insights for when participants return to the niceties and strictures of diplomacy. 

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in his welcoming speech to the delegates acknowledged he had been influenced by the style of the German conference and hoped for more of the same at the Tana gathering. 

A soft approach 
The architecture of Africa’s peace and security structures since the launch of the AU in 2002 and the subsequent May 2004 ratification of the Peace and Security Council (PSC) endowed the continent with a comprehensive security armoury allowing for intervention in states to resolve or prevent conflicts, using such instruments as the yet-to-be-constituted African Standby Force (ASF) and the Panel of the Wise - an AU five-member consultative body drawn from the continent’s five geographical regions, to provide views and opinions for conflict prevention and resolution. 

A delegate at the Tana conference lauded the AU’s peace and security structures, but noted these were rigid and “hard”, that did not allow for a “soft” approach to the issues, and the Tana conference was envisaged to provide such a layer of interaction, where there was equal access to debate for presidents, ambassadors, academics, activists and AU officials. 

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Hesphina Rukato, the forum’s coordinator, said in an opening address: “We wanted to create a different type of gathering, more a retreat than a conference, and with the wide participation of people who are concerned and open to share their experiences.” 

The discussions were off-limits to the media, apart from the opening and closing sessions, in the interests of garnering an intimacy among the participants that was designed to flow from the meeting room, to the corridors and dinners - under the two guiding themes of managing diversity and state fragility. 

Alex de Waal, a veteran Africa analyst and executive director of the World Peace Foundation, was effusive about the format. “What was great about this was the extent to which there was a conversation. There were a couple people there who you just felt were giving their government position. But that was very exceptional. There was real substance as to what was being said. And the issues were really coming out in the discussion and that was very unusual.” 

Among present and past leaders were host Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, President Ismail Guelleh of Djibouti, President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed of Somalia, former South African president Thabo Mbeki, and Mozambique’s past prime minister Luisa Diogo, although the flattening of hierarchies came as a shock for some. 

Museveni makes waves 
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was not scheduled in the programme to make a speech, nor was he selected as a panellist, but he eventually made an off-the-cuff address from the podium following intense lobbying by his aides. 

He questioned the West’s penchant for sanctions against countries for their treatment of homosexuals, or disrespect for women’s rights, and asked why they did not impose similar economic measures on states that failed to provide such social services as electricity to their citizens. He then managed to provoke a walk-out by a Libyan national after slamming the 2011 “unconstitutional removal” of Muammar Gaddafi, creating a “diplomatic incident” in the absence of diplomatic protocols. 

Brig-Gen Hadi Ali Gibril, executive secretary of the North African Regional Capability (NARC), walked out as a Libyan and not in his capacity as an official of the regional ASF. “Although I respect his [Museveni’s] friendship with Gaddafi, there are many things he does not know,” he told IRIN. 

“Libyan people were suffering for 42 years. There was no freedom. And when the people said they wanted freedom, he killed them and ordered his soldiers to rape the women. Do you know the capital of Libya [Tripoli] with two million citizens has no sewage and no water system,” he said. 

There was a sharp exchange between a sitting president and a past president, the latter accusing the former of “taking his country to hell”, according to a source privy to the discussions. 

Odd bedfellows 
The diverse array of delegates made for odd-bedfellows, Mahmood Mamdani, the executive director of Uganda’s Makerere Institute for Social Research, told IRIN. “[Politicians] by their very nature are very present minded and fixed on the moment and are impatient with scholarly talk, and scholars think practitioners and policymakers are always rushing to solutions and just never solving the problem, because they never really understand it.” 

He said politicians used consultants “who know which side their bread is buttered and tread softly when it comes to critiques. By getting them in touch with scholars who are not employed by them and who have much more freedom to talk, I think that is useful”. 

Governor of Nigeria’s Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, told IRIN the conference’s billing was “to speak truth to power and I am not sure we have successfully done that. It was meant to be a no-holds bar conversation. 

''Those in political office are not necessarily the smartest in the room''
“Hierarchy by its very nature is recognized in Africa. We respect age, we respect authority and order and those representations of authority are notionally assumed to also have wisdom and knowledge, which is not necessarily true, and we have seen that replicated here. Those in political office are not necessarily the smartest in the room,” he said. 

Daniel Adugna, youth programme manager at the AU commission, told IRIN the difference between the 17th AU Summit in the capital of Equatorial Guinea, Malabo, in June 2011 and the Tana conference “was we were not able to engage leaders and talk to them directly because of certain procedures the [AU] summit has. But here we could raise our hands together with our leaders and make a comment.” 

When the delegates overlooked youth in the diversity debate, Adugna said he was able to put it back on the agenda. “The opportunities I would have to sit and speak in the same room as the prime minister were probably impossible, close to zero and it has never happened until today… Having no protocols is a big advantage, as you are able to understand how structures, institutions and certain personalities think.” 

Francis Deng, special adviser to the UN Secretary-General on the prevention of genocide, told IRIN the diversity theme was discussed at length “as the way we deal with our mandate on genocide prevention is to demystify genocide and see it as an extreme form of identity related conflicts that result from denial of rights, inequality [and] marginalization… and this is connected with the fragile states [theme].” 

He said “there was decent informality… people were very candid on sensitive issues and all in all it was a good beginning… As Obasanjo said, within the AU if you mentioned a country negatively there would immediately be responses of hands raised and people saying point of order. Here there were no such sensitivities and it is a good model to be continued with.”