• Solidarity and Unity Valued in King Mohammed VIs Green March Speech

    Marrakech – On the 39th anniversary of the Green March, King Mohammed VI’s anniversary speech focused on the country’s Regionalization Project to promote unity and solidarity among all Moroccan regions.Morocco’s advanced Regionalization Project, a governmental substantial deep structural reform of all the state structures, is designed to contribute to a common and unified development for Morocco via assistance and solidarity among all regions.Rather than the central government providing each region with human and material resources, or each region relying only on its own resources, the central government is giving wider powers to the representatives of the regional central authorities (regional councils, prefectures, municipalities, and districts). “Having a unified, region-based Morocco does not mean there is tribal fanaticism; nor will this be conducive to disunity or separatism, for this is forbidden under the Kingdom’s former Constitution as well as the present one,” the King said. Rather, “We want integrated, solidarity-based entities and regions which care about each other,” he added.In the King’s view, nothing but unity between regions and the unity of Moroccan territories is acceptable. The power of the Moroccan identity lies in its multicultural components including all Moroccans, whether, Jebli or Riffi, Sahrawi or Soussi.King Mohammed VI recognized the sacrifice of Moroccans all over the country for the sake of enhancing a dignified life for their brothers and sisters in the southern provinces. People gave from their estates, and endowed even their lives for defending the “Western Sahara.”“There are widows who have to shoulder the burdens of life on their own; there are orphans who – for the sake of the Sahara – never knew a father’s affectionate love. There are young people who have been deprived of their freedom, and who have lived for many years as prisoners, for the sake of the Sahara,” he noted.He said the dispute has not been an issue only for the Saharan people, but Morocco itself has suffered-leaving behind widows and orphans. If all this suffering justifies anything, it is only the solidarity and love that are among the components of the Moroccan Identity.Thus, the king’s speech reflects the aspect of solidarity found in the following Hadith: “The believers in their mutual kindness, compassion and sympathy are just like one body. When one of the limbs suffers, the whole body responds to it with wakefulness and fever.”Edited by Elisabeth Myers© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed read more

  • Moroccan Hamza Ouarch Worlds Best Reciter of the Quran

    Marrakech- Moroccan Hamza Ouarach won first prize in the Bahrain International Competition for the Recitation of the Holy Quran online (Universal Reader), organized on Tuesday in Manama, Bahrain’s capital.The Moroccan Quran reader was the best of 5000 participants.This year’s Universal Reader competition, which selects the best voices reciting the Holy Quran from various countries of the world, was considered the most successful ever, and is unprecedented all over the world. The contest aims at encouraging young Muslims to memorize and give importance to the Holy Quran.Hamza Ouarch, 18, follows in the footsteps of many young Moroccans who have previously won a number of awards in Quran recitation.Last July, Mouad Daouik won the “Most Beautiful Recitation” contest in the 18th session of the Dubai International Holy Quran Award (DIHQA). read more

  • Opposition Parties PJD Responsible for MoroccoEgypt Media Tension

    Marrakech – Several Moroccan opposition parties are accusing the current leading party the Justice and Development Party (PJD) and the Moroccan media for the recent escalation of tensions between Morocco and Egypt. They hold the PJD responsible forthe Egyptian media campaign against Morocco.The Secretary Generals of severalopposition parties, including the Independence, Authenticity and Modernity party, the Socialist Union of Popular Forces, and the Constitutional Union party, held an urgent meeting on Monday to discuss the “the artificial media tension between Morocco and Egypt”, according to a press release.During the meeting, the parties reportedly voiced their “Wonder about the artificial sabotage at the media levelofthe relations between the Kingdom of Morocco and the Arab Republic of Egypt, which have been always linked by cooperation and mutual respect.”The opposition added that it “strongly condemns that some have adopted rumors and exploited the media in order to poison the relationship and sow confusion and discord between Morocco and Egypt.” The opposition also “reaffirms the depth of the special historical relations between the two brotherly people and their leadership, as there is a strong desire to develop the relationship in the economic, political, and cultural fields.”The opposition parties heavily criticized the way that the PJD dealt with media campaigns between the two countries, and ultimately held the party responsible for the tensionsbecause it leads the government.“The opposition parties express disapproval of the irresponsible government’s treatment of this artificial tension, especially of the party that leads the government, which is known for narrow partisan opportunism.”Moroccan national television channels recently aired reports that describe the Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah El Sisi, as the leader of a military coup. Many consider the report to bearesponse to Egyptian media’s campaign against Morocco.Some Egyptian media believe the report to be an attempt by the supporters of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood to damage the relations between Morocco and Egypt.Edited by Timothy Filla read more

  • India Morocco Need to Join Forces to Fight Terror Indian Official

    New Delhi – Morocco and India need to work together to fight terrorism and promote their economic relations, Secretary (East) in the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, Anil Wadhwa, said.“It is important for India and Morocco to work together to evolve stronger cooperation in the field of counter terrorism and intelligence in order to develop an efficient mechanism in real time exchange of information and also to staunch the flow of terror finance,” Wadhwa said at a roundtable on ‘India and Morocco: Imperatives of Cooperation’, organized Saturday by the Society for Policy Studies in collaboration with Morocco’s embassy in New Delhi.Underlining that “Morocco and India need to fight terror through not just bilateral but also regional and international cooperation,” he called for the establishment of a multidimensional partnership between Morocco and India to contribute to strengthening security and stability in the Maghreb region and Sahel, and through “emphasizing the values of plurality, diversity, religious tolerance and moderation – values both India and Morocco subscribe to.” The Indian official, who visited the Kingdom last December, hailed, in this regard, Morocco’s efforts in the promotion of tolerance and moderation values, as well as its strong commitment to the training of imams from different countries of the region.Mr. Wadhwa also said Morocco and India can move forward to take advantage of the potential of cooperation between the two friendly countries, recalling in this respect that the volume of trade increased from 361 million dollars in 2000 to over 2 billion dollars in 2011 before declining to 1.4 billion in 2013, due to the impact of the global economic crisis.He also called upon Moroccan businessmen to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the rapid economic growth in India, a country open to foreign investment. read more

  • Faisal Qassim The Sahara is Moroccan Algeria in the Embrace of

    Rabat – Faisal Qasim, the TV host of the popular Arabic-language talk show “The Opposing Perspective,” said the Western Sahara belongs to Morocco and that Algeria has fallen into the “embrace” of Iran – the majority-Shiite country the Arab world considers to be one of its greatest rivals. Two days after King Mohammed VI’s strong speech at the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in Riyadh, Qasim posted a statement on Facebook affirming that most Arab countries support Morocco in its struggle against separatists led by the Algeria-backed Polisario Front.“Most Arabs agree that the Western Sahara is the legal possession of Morocco,” he wrote. “What were the Algerian generals expecting from Arabs after they fell in the embrace of Iran.” More than 18 thousand of Qasim 9.6 million Facebook followers “liked” the post and almost 800 people had commented on it at the time of this article’s writing.Relations between Algeria and Iran have been particularly strong over the past few months, especially after the North African country refused to take part in the Islamic Alliance for Countering Terrorism, which was composed of mainly Sunni countries, at Saudi Arabia’s invitation. Algeria also refused to support the Saudi Arabia-led political opposition to Hezbollah, a Shiite-run political party in Lebanon.Algeria’s opposition to Saudi Arabia’s regional agenda is tied to the Syrian civil war as well. Morocco’s easterly neighbor decided to maintain its political relationship with Syria after the Saudi king launched a program opposing President Bashar Al-Asad’s regime. Algeria’s move sided the country with Iran, one of the major financial supporters of the murderous Syrian regime. read more

  • Moroccan Police Inaugurate Analysis Laboratory in Kenitra

    Rabat – The General Directorate of National Security (DGSN) has inaugurated an analysis laboratory at the Royal Institute of Police in Kenitra, the agency announced in a communiqué on Wednesday.The laboratory, which is the first of its kind in the history of the DGSN, is a part of the agency’s reform of its medical and psychological testing procedures.According to the DGSN, the laboratory will guarantee credible examinations at a low cost and will avoid any “fraudulent operation.” It also to offer a low cost of these analyzes. The laboratory is also intended to speed up the diagnoses  serious diseases, which police interns have struggled to streamline. read more

  • Death Toll from Syria Bus Blast Climbs to 112

    Toronto – The death toll from Saturday’s suicide bombing of an evacuation bus convoy in Syria now stands at 112 and observers on the ground are predicting it could climb higher before the final number is known.The Syrian Observatory for Human rights is reporting that the dead include 98 civilians plus aid workers and rebel soldiers. Children are also among the victims.According to the BBC’s Middle east reporter, Lina Sinjab, a vehicle loaded with food supplies for the evacuees approached the convoy on Saturday in Rashidin. It began handing out potato chips, which attracted a large number of children. Then, at approximately 15:30, local time, it exploded. It’s not clear, according to Sinjab, precisely who is responsible for the blast, although there is speculation regarding just how the vehicle was able to get so close to the convoy without having had government permission.At the moment, no one is taking responsibility but the government is blaming the rebels. With so many of their own supporters among the evacuees, however, it seems unlikely that rebels would have seen such a move to be in their best interest, and there is no evidence to support the government’s claim.According to the same source, in his Easter Sunday address, Pope Francis condemned the attack, calling it “an ignoble attack on fleeing refugees.”He offered up a prayer for Syria: “May (God) in a particular way sustain the efforts of those who are actively working to bring healing and comfort to the civilian population of Syria, the beloved and martyred Syria, who are victims of a war that does not cease to sow horror and death.”The evacuation of 30,000 Syrian civilians is part of the “Four Towns” deal brokered to alleviate the suffering of those caught in Syria’s besieged towns. The convoy had been waiting since Friday evening to begin moving when talks once again stalled. As a result of Saturday’s carnage against the innocent, both sides appear amenable to talking once again. read more

  • Ecotrail Marathon Returns to Ouarzazate

    Rabat – Hundreds of runners are currently gathered in the southeastern city of Ouarzazate, for the 5th annual of Eco Trail Marathon, which began on April 17 and will clock out on April 20.For three days, participants from Italy, France, Luxembourg, Spain, Algeria, and Morocco will traverse 70 kilometers, passing through the regions’ palm groves and oases. Refreshments will be offered every 5 kilometers, such as water, dried fruit, fruits, and biscuits.The 4-day event occurs as a 3-stage marathon: the first stage began on April 17 and consisted of 24 kilometers, starting in the middle of the film studios through the mythical scenery of Ali Ben Haddou. The Moroccan El Maimouni Abdelilah ended the first stage in 1:21:19, followed by Ben Ouazar Youssef 1:23:38, while Ait Rahou Nadir came third with a time of 1:26:2. In the women’s category, Moroccan Aziza Raj secured the first place with a time of 1:45:46. The second and third stages, scheduled for today and tomorrow, total of 24 and 22 kilometers, respectively. The runners will pass through a series of breathtaking valleys and oases.At the conclusion of the marathon, the participants will return to Ouarzazate to celebrate the awards ceremony. read more

  • Autobody shops busy due to extreme cold

    CALGARY (660 NEWS) – The streets have been a smash up derby with the slippery conditions and icy roads from Calgary’s deep freeze.Sean Eidson, with Micropaint Autobody in Calgary, said they’re seeing more banged up vehicles due to crashes in these conditions.“A lot of issues where people are sliding into one another or having been slid into with the amount of ice that we’ve been having for the last few weeks. It’s quite common for this time of year so it’s nothing that we haven’t seen before.”READ MORE: Cold weather crushing spirits and bursting pipesEidson goes on to say that the extreme cold can make a small fender bender even worse when it comes to damage.“It can make things a little more brittle than they normally would be, so we have seen a lot of issues where maybe we’re having to do more replacements on plastic parts whereas normally we could just repair them.”He said a lot of drivers wait until spring to get their damage fixed but encourages them to bring it in to get it checked so nothing falls off in the meantime. read more

  • Lonely Planet Moroccos Meknes Among Top 10 Cities to Visit in

    Rabat – The famous travel guide publisher Lonely Planet has chosen Meknes among the top 10 cities to visit worldwide in 2019.Meknes came in 10th place after Copenhagen, Denmark (1st); Shenzhen, China (2nd); Novi Sad, Serbia (3rd); Miami, the US (4th); and Kathmandu, Nepal (5th).Lonely Planet also listed Mexico City; Dakar, Senegal; Seattle, the US; and Zadar, Croatia as cities to visit in 2019. Meknes is located about 60 kilometers west of Fez and 155 kilometers east of Rabat.“The notorious war-mongering sultan who moved Morocco’s capital to Meknès in 1672 would be turning in his grave if he knew how few visitors the city receives today compared with Fez and Marrakesh,” wrote Lonely Planet.The number of tourists visiting Meknes has increased since last year. Overnight stays rose from 12,871 in January 2017 to 16,172 in January 2018, up by 26 percent.However, Meknes has far fewer visitors compared to other tourist cities in Morocco.Fez recorded 69,357 overnight stays in January 2018 compared to 51,341 in January 2017, up by 35 percent. Marrakech, the leading Moroccan tourist city, received 542,514 overnight stays in January 2018 compared to 422,850 in the same period last year.Lonely Planet recalled the imperial history of Meknes when “Moulay Ismail plundered Marrakeshi palaces and Roman ruins at nearby Volubilis for stone and marble to build thick-set fortifications that still encase the city.”The travel guide publisher also mentioned the city’s “giant subterranean food stores” and its remnant gate, Bab Mansour, which “outshines even the Blue Gate [Bab Boujloud] in Fez.”Meknes is also famous for the mausoleum of Sultan Moulay Ismail and its old medina.“At the heart of the city, Ismail’s elaborate mausoleum is a national treasure and it’s scheduled to emerge soon from a two-year, top-to-toe restoration, giving travellers more reason than ever to visit this under-appreciated imperial city,” wrote Lonely Planet. read more

  • More Students Walk Out in Protest of Time Change

    Rabat – Two weeks ago, Morocco announced that the country would be staying on GMT+1 time year-round instead of reverting back to GMT. The move, announced two days before the scheduled change, was widely criticized for not allowing citizens and companies enough time to adjust.In the decree, the government said the new rule was “to avoid many changes that occur many times during the year and repercussions at many levels.” It also indicated that the permanent DST will be adopted as “an experiment.” The Ministry of National Education said that protests against the new school hours were “isolated cases.” In Rabat, some protestors gathered in front of parliament; reports from Casablanca say students occupied the stairwells of the Twin Center.Last Friday, the Ministry of Education issued a memo to schools nationwide, encouraging them to adapt the new school hours. Normally, schools begin at 8 AM and end at 6 PM, allowing two hours for lunch. With the new hours, students in urban areas begin at 9 AM, end at 5 PM, and have a two hour lunch break, while schools in rural areas begin at 9 AM, end at 3 PM, and only allot 30 minutes for lunch. read more

  • Protester Pleads for Violent Yellow VestPolice Clashes to End

    Rabat – On Saturday, Paris was rocked by a massive number of protesters, destroying police vehicles with stones and fire.Police, for the first time since the launch of the protest, fired tear gas to disperse protesters.One protester had a different approach to ending the violent demonstrations. Bursting into tears, the woman called for the clashes to end. While wearing a yellow vest, the protester was heard saying, “But look what you do to us! You should be ashamed of yourself…. We don’t even hate you!”As she fell on the ground crying, she exclaimed, “You should be with us for the people, for France, for our homeland, for our nation!”She added that protesters are not carrying arms.Read Also: Video: Yellow Vests Smash, Burn Police Cars in BrusselsTranslation: “But look what you do to us! You should be ashamed of yourself…We don’t even hate you!.. You should be with us, for the people, for France, for our homeland, for our Nation!”I wonder if she’s complaining about fuel prices or being replaced by the Third World pic.twitter.com/tQ0bYejG9u— Vengeful Jesus (@VJ_Rises) December 3, 2018Videos of the woman went viral on social media.About 125,000 demonstrators marched in France as part of the yellow vests movement.French Minister of the Interior Christophe Castaner announced that 1,385 protesters have been arrested.“There were 1385 arrests, as I speak, and this number will still increase,” the official said.On Saturday, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced that Macron was going to propose “measures” to end protests.Read Also: Paris Tourist Sites Closed due to ‘Yellow Vest’ RiotsAbout 126 suffered injuries on Saturday due to the protests.Nearly 90,000 members of law enforcement were on duty across the country yesterday to respond to clashes. Eight thousand of them were deployed in Paris. read more

  • How the major US stock indexes fared Wednesday

    Stocks gave up an early gain to finish with modest losses Wednesday as investors continued weighing a steady flow of corporate earnings.Energy and communications companies took some of the biggest losses as a three day rally in the price of U.S. crude oil ended. Bond prices rose, sending yields lower, as investors shifted money into low-risk assets.On Wednesday:The S&P 500 index fell 6.43 points, or 0.2%, to 2,927.25.The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 59.34 points, or 0.2%, to 26,597.05.The Nasdaq composite lost 18.81 points, or 0.2%, to 8,102.01.The Russell 2000 index of small company stocks picked up 3.04 points, or 0.2%, to 1,588.13.For the week:The S&P 500 is up 22.22 points, or 0.8%.The Dow is up 37.51 points, or 0.1%.The Nasdaq is up 103.95 points, or 1.3%.The Russell 2000 is up 22.38 points, or 1.4%.For the year:The S&P 500 is up 420.40 points, or 16.8%.The Dow is up 3,269.59 points, or 14%.The Nasdaq is up 1,466.74 points, or 22.1%.The Russell 2000 is up 239.57 points, or 17.8%.The Associated Press read more

  • PetSmarts Chewycom files to go public

    NEW YORK — Chewy, the online pet store owned by PetSmart, is going public.The company said it plans to raise about $100 million, but that is likely to change based on investor demand. It said Monday it expects its ticker symbol to be “CHWY.”Chewy, which was founded in 2011 and bought by PetSmart in 2017, has never been profitable. It reported a loss of $267.9 million last year on revenue of $3.53 billion.The company says it wants to grow its in-house brands, increase its pet pharmacy offerings and expand outside the U.S.Chewy has headquarters in Boston and Dania Beach, Florida, and has seven warehouses around the country where orders are packed and shipped to shoppers.The Associated Press read more

  • US probes inadvertent side air bag deployment on Mazda SUVs

    DETROIT — U.S. safety regulators are investigating reports that side curtain air bags can inflate for no reason on some Mazda CX-9 large SUVs.Documents posted Monday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration say two owners have complained about the problem. Four people were hurt in one of the cases.In both complaints owners told the agency that the left and right air bags went off for no reason while the SUVs were moving.The probe covers CX-9s from the 2010 through 2013 model years. Mazda sold just over 112,000 of the SUVs from 2010 through 2013.The safety agency says investigators will figure out how often the problem happens and determine the safety consequences. The agency could seek a recall.Messages were left Monday morning seeking comment from Mazda.The Associated Press read more

  • Medical trends revealed in latest UN health statistics compilation

    The rising deaths caused by non-communicable diseases and the vast inequality in health resources between developed and developing countries are two of the trends spotlighted in an annual statistical compilation released today by the United Nations. The World Health Organization (WHO) report represents the most complete set of health statistics available, for a set of 50 health indicators from the agency’s 193 Member States, with the new edition also highlighting trends in 10 of the most closely watched global health figure. According to the publication, World Health Statistics 2007, the ageing of the global population will result in significant increases in the total number of deaths caused by most non-communicable diseases, particularly cancer, over the next 30 years. In regard to the distribution of health resources, the volume points out that there is a 20/90 syndrome in which 30 developed countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) make up less than 20 per cent of the world’s population but spend 90 per cent of available health funding. Other trends monitored by the publication include projections of mortality for the year 2030, aspects of maternal mortality, rates of growth stunting due to malnutrition, the extent to which people can access treatment, the major risk factors for ill-health, and health outcomes in the context of demographic factors in individual countries. In her speech introducing the report to current World Health Assembly, the annual policy-making meeting of WHO, Director-General Margaret Chan, focused on the need for accurate evidence and up-to-date statistics as the basis for policy decisions. “Reliable health data and statistics are the foundation of health policies, strategies, and evaluation and monitoring,” Dr. Chan told the gathering in Geneva. “Evidence is also the foundation for sound health information for the general public.” 18 May 2007The rising deaths caused by non-communicable diseases and the vast inequality in health resources between developed and developing countries are two of the trends spotlighted in an annual statistical compilation released today by the United Nations. read more

  • Trial of Bosnian Serb accused of genocide transferred from UN tribunal

    11 June 2007The United Nations war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia announced today that it is transferring the case of a Bosnian Serb ex-soldier facing genocide charges over his role in the notorious massacre of Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995. The trial of Milorad Trbić, a former security officer of the Zvornik Brigade of the Bosnian Serb Army, will now take place within the war crimes section of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s court system, according to a news release from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).Mr. Trbić has been charged with genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, extermination, murder, persecutions and forcible transfer committed against the civilians of the Srebrenica area between July and November 1995.The indictment alleges that Mr. Trbić entered an agreement with several other Bosnian Serb military leaders, including Gen. Ratko Mladić, to kill the able-bodied Muslim men who were captured or surrendered after the town of Srebrenica, supposed to be a UN-protected area, fell to the Bosnian Serbs on 11 July.Mr. Trbić and others are accused of also plotting to remove the remaining Muslim population of Srebrenica and Žepa from Republika Srpska with the intent to destroy that population.At least 7,000 men and boys were killed when the Srebrenica enclave was overrun and thousands of women and children were deported to other areas.The indictment states that Mr. Trbić participated with other Bosnian Serb army personnel in an organized effort to conceal the killings and executions of those men and boys by exhuming bodies from initial mass graves and reburying them in secondary graves.The ICTY which sits at The Hague, has so far transferred 10 accused to Bosnia and Herzegovina for trial, as well as two accused to Croatia and one to Serbia.The transfers of cases involving low or intermediate-level accused to courts in the countries of the former Yugoslavia are part of the Tribunal’s completion strategy, designed to allow it to concentrate its resources upon the most serious cases.The ICTY has indicted 161 persons and completed proceedings in the cases of 108 accused since it held its first hearing in November 1994. Under the completion strategy, the Tribunal is scheduled to finish its work by the end of 2010. read more

  • Deputy SecretaryGeneral hails new tool to promote peacebuilding in Burundi

    Addressing a meeting of the UN Peacebuilding Commission, Ms. Migiro called the Monitoring and Tracking Mechanism for the Strategic Framework for Peacebuilding in Burundi “a practical and powerful tool to ensure dialogue and enhanced coordination between key stakeholders.“And it will help to ensure accountability of the actors engaged in supporting Burundi in its efforts to stay on the path to secure peace and sustainable development,” she told the gathering at UN Headquarters in New York. Burundi is one of two countries – along with Sierra Leone – on the agenda of the Commission, set up a year ago to help countries emerging from conflict avoid the slide back into war. The Mechanism, the first of its kind, paves the way for a “principled and active partnership” between countries under consideration by the Commission, the entire UN system and the larger international community, she said. Noting that Burundi still faces a number of challenges in its efforts to consolidate peace, including good governance, security sector reform and socio-economic recovery, Ms. Migiro said the adoption of the Mechanism is a critical step for the country and its people, as well as for the work of the Commission.“I believe that the framework and monitoring mechanism you have jointly agreed with the Government and other stakeholders in Burundi will strengthen the long-term international support and engagement Burundi needs.” 5 December 2007Applauding Burundi on its commitment to peace after more than a decade of armed conflict, Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro today welcomed the adoption of a new tool that will strengthen the partnership between the United Nations, the West African country and its international partners. read more

  • UN refugee agency calls for probe into attacks on Colombian refugees

    According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), three Colombians, including one refugee and one asylum-seeker, disappeared at the end of last month from the village of San Martin in northern Ecuador, just across the border from Colombia. Like many other rural communities in that part of the country, San Martin is home to large numbers of Colombian refugees.UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis told reporters in Geneva today that the agency has received consistent reports from first-hand witnesses that the three were kidnapped by a group of masked men in uniforms during an armed incursion into San Martin on 26 May. The group, which has not been identified by the authorities in either country, apparently came from Colombia.“According to information we received, the masked men tortured members of the local community before taking the three men away,” Ms. Pagonis said. “There also are allegations of attempted rape against a pregnant refugee woman in San Martin.”Ms. Pagonis said that UNHCR strongly condemned these acts of violence against refugees and their host communities, and appreciated the serious efforts of the authorities in Ecuador and Colombia to resolve the matter in a transparent way. UNHCR said it hoped that those responsible would be brought to justice and called on both governments to continue their efforts to strengthen protection mechanisms to avoid a repetition of the alleged events.About 60,000 Colombians in Ecuador’s northern provinces are in need of international protection, according to UNHCR. Most of them fled the internal armed conflict in Colombia fearing for their lives or safety. The majority live along the border among local Ecuadorian people, in rural communities that are often remote and under-developed. 10 June 2008The United Nations refugee agency is calling for a “full and speedy resolution” to investigations into allegations that Colombian refugees in Ecuador have endured forced disappearances, torture, attempted rape and death threats. read more

  • Ongoing Darfur conflict threatens UNAfrican Union mission aid efforts – Ban

    18 December 2008Violent clashes between the warring factions in conflict-ravaged Darfur threaten humanitarian work and the joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping operation in the Sudanese region, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warns in his latest report on the mission, urging all parties to end hostilities immediately. Violent clashes between the warring factions in conflict-ravaged Darfur threaten humanitarian work and the joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping operation in the Sudanese region, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warns in his latest report on the mission, urging all parties to end hostilities immediately. Fighting on the western flank of Sudan “and displacement continue, humanitarian operations are at risk, clashes between the parties occur with regrettable regularity and the parties have not reached a negotiated peace agreement,” Mr. Ban writes.In this environment the UN-AU hybrid operation in Darfur, known as UNAMID, has focused on the protection of civilians, but are hampered by a severely under-deployed force.The Secretary-General notes that almost one year after handing over peacekeeping responsibility to UNAMID, the number of troops on the ground falls far short of the 26,000 blue helmets authorized by the Security Council. Less than 12,500 uniformed personnel, including troops, military observers and police officers, are in place across Darfur and the mission is also short of almost half of the civilian staff it requires to be at full capacity, with just under 3,000 posts recruited.In addition, Mr. Ban reiterates that UN Member States need to provide the units and equipment previously pledged to UNAMID, including 18 helicopters and additional units dealing with logistics, heavy transport, medium transport and aerial reconnaissance.The effectiveness of the mission also depends on Sudan’s cooperation, Mr. Ban says, while welcoming President Al-Bashir’s statement last month saying that the Government had called a cessation to hostilities. “However, I am greatly disappointed that military activity by the Government continues,” he says, adding “The reports of violence, clashes and aerial bombardments since the unilateral ceasefire declaration of 12 November are of serious concern.”He stresses that a genuine ceasefire is an essential precondition for talks necessary for a peaceful resolution to the conflict to begin.“The cessation of hostilities is also required to facilitate delivery of vital humanitarian assistance,” the Secretary-General says, adding “I am deeply concerned that insecurity continues to seriously affect civilians and hamper the humanitarian community’s efforts to provide them with life-saving assistance.”He also calls on the Government in Khartoum to comply with its obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law, in particular with respect to protection of civilians. “There are still disturbing reports of intimidation and harassment of internally displaced persons (IDPs), especially women, who are the victims of marauding militia groups.”The Security Council will discuss the report tomorrow when it is briefed on the UN-AU force in Darfur, where an estimated 300,000 people have been killed since fighting erupted in 2003 between Government forces, allied militiamen, known as the Janjaweed, and rebels. Some 2.7 million others have also been forced from their homes and now live as refugees or as IDPs. read more