End of Disarmament and Demobilization
As you know, last week's ceremony at the National Military Academy, marked the end of the disarmament and demobilization parts of DDR. With almost 63,000 former combatants having traded in their weapons for a chance to build a future in civilian life, DDR in Afghanistan has been among the largest DDR efforts completed worldwide.
Click here to read the joint Government-Japan-UNAMA statement.
The nationwide ammunition survey between Afghanistan's New Beginnings Programme (ANBP) and the Ministry of Defence has now been under way for five months. It has identified 483,274 boxed and 1,232,744 unboxed ammunition sets throughout the country. Most of this ammunition is unserviceable and has been destroyed by the implementing partner, HALO Trust. The rest has been transported to safe and standard storage.
The teams are now doing surveys in the regions of Kabul, Kandahar, Mazar-e-Sharif and Kunduz.
Disbandment of Illegal Armed Groups (DIAG)
Now that the main elements of DDR have been completed, we have moved into wider disarmament for Afghanistan, which is being pursued under the Disbanding of Illegal Armed Groups Initiative.
Since June 11th, when DIAG began, 15,167 weapons have been collected. Of that total, 7,371 have been verified by ANBP teams.
Additionally, 16,521 boxed and 28,527 unboxed ammunition have been verified.
Some 245 commanders have surrendered weapons under DIAG so far, of which 105 are prospective candidates in September's elections.
27,000 refugees return home from Pakistan in last three weeks
Within the last three weeks some 27,000 refugees left camps in Pakistan and have returned home to Afghanistan, following the closure of refugee camps in North Waziristan.
Around 85% of those returnees are from Paktya province. According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees no major difficulties have been reported despite the high number of returnees.
Since March 17th almost 35,000 individuals have returned through Gardez and Khost under the normal repatriation programme.
Still with refugees, last Wednesday, July 6th in Herat, the Minister of Rural Rehabilitation inaugurated three new areas for approximately 12,000 returnees in the districts of Zendajan, Pashtun Zarghun and Gozara. Each of these areas will provide settlement facilities for 4,000 repatriated families. Each family will receive 1,000 square metres of land to build a home. According to the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation, similar projects are planned for some 50,000 returnees to Herat.
FAO contributes farming machinery, equipment to Herat Agriculture Department
In an effort to strengthen the Herat Department of Agriculture, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has contributed 11 vehicles, two tractors, 22 motorcycles, and three computers worth US$400,000.
New private radio station begins broadcasting in Khost
A new, private radio station known as "Voice of the People" began broadcasting in Khost. The station currently broadcasts eight hours of mainly Pashtun music and local news.
UNFPA celebrates World Population Day with film and poster exhibit
Today, July 11th, is World Population Day. To mark the occasion the Ministry of Women's Affairs, with support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), is holding a ceremony tomorrow, Tuesday July 12th at 9am at the Intercontinental Hotel.
Minister Masouda Jalal, and Deputy Special Representative Ameerah Haq will be speaking at the ceremony.
The ceremony will include a poster exhibit and a feature film on women's access to health services.
The poster exhibit will show the work of 120 Kabul University students from the Faculty of Fine Arts marking World Population Day.
The film, which is entitled "Awlaad" or 'Child', looks at women's access to health services and traditional health practices in Afghanistan.
In his annual statement Secretary-General Kofi Annan remarked "This World Population Day is an occasion to stress the empowering effect of gender equality, and the fact that respect for this human right benefits everyone -- men, women, boys and girls alike."
World Bank: Donors contribute over US$1 billion to support Afghan national budget
As of the end of June 2005, twenty-four donors to the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF) had contributed over US$1 billion.
The Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund, which is administered by the World Bank, has supported recurrent and capital costs of the Government of Afghanistan and financed investment projects and programmes. The fund has also been useful in promoting the distribution of international assistance, in putting emphasis on government ownership and in promoting transparency and accountability of reconstruction assistance.
The ARTF currently finances 12 investment projects some of which include micro-finance, roads, water supply and sanitation.
For more information about ARTF, visit: www.worldbank.org/artf
JEMB and ECC to hold separate press conferences announcing final candidate lists
An invitation to all journalists. The JEMB and Electoral Complaints Commission will be holding separate press conferences announcing the final candidate list for the Wolesi Jirga and Provincial Council Elections.
The JEMB presser will be on Tuesday July 12th at 1:30pm at their Electoral Compound on Jalalabad Road, while the ECC will hold theirs at 10:30am on Wednesday, July 13th, at the Heetal Plaza Hotel.
Also on the elections, we have copies of Frequently Asked Questions for voters returning to Afghanistan. These are available in English, Dari and Pashto.
Briefing from Bronwyn Curran, Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) Spokesperson
Good afternoon, I'll start with an update on Voter Registration, which is now just over the halfway mark.
As of close of business last Thursday, when we reached the halfway point of the four-week period, 604,653 Afghans had updated the Voter Registry, either by correcting the province listed on their existing Voter Registration card or adding their names for the first time to the list.
That is a rate of about 50,000 people per day using the Voter Registry Update facilities. Women now account for about 36%.
As of yesterday, all but eight of the 1,052 Voter Registration sites were open. The closed sites included three in Zabul province and five in Kandahar province, all due to staffing issues.
The JEMB passed a regulation last week on campaigning by Wolesi Jirga and Provincial Council candidates. Under the rules, non-media campaigning is permitted throughout the electoral process, until the 48-hour campaign blackout period immediately preceding Polling Day.
However until the official campaign period of August 17th to September 15th, all election campaign advertising -- paid or sponsored - in the media is banned. During the official campaign period, candidates will be offered sponsored advertising slots on radio or television.
Wolesi Jirga candidates may choose between two, five-minute spots on radio or one TV spot of not more than five minutes.
Provincial Council candidates will receive one, four-minute block of airtime on radio, or up to two minutes on TV. Paid advertising on radio and television will remain banned. The sponsored ads will ensure equitability for candidates in advertising through radio and television.
The rules regarding campaign advertising in the print media, during the Official Campaign Period, are still being finalized. It is likely that a statement in last week's press release regarding advertising in the print media will be clarified. This is pending final discussions by the JEMB Commissioners.
The JEMB will certify the Final List of Candidates tomorrow morning at an extraordinary session. The lists, by province, will then be issued electronically to each JEMB provincial office and posted for public viewing.
Candidates who have been removed from the final list will receive a personalized letter explaining the reasons.
The JEMB will hold a press conference on the Final List at 1.30 pm on Tuesday [July 12th] at the JEMB Electoral compound in Kabul and the Electoral Complaints Commission will hold a Press Conference on Wednesday morning [July 13th] at the Heetal Plaza Hotel in Wazir Akbar Khan.
Questions & Answers
Question: How has DIAG [Disarmament of Illegal Armed Groups] being going so far? What are the challenges you face, and in terms of the collection of weapons how have communities been affected?
Spokesman: Regarding DIAG, our view is that it has been very successful so far. The numbers of weapons that have come in has been more than anyone had expected at this stage. The fact that people outside the candidate list have also handed in weapons is also something that we think is very good and clearly we want to see that continuing. With the second part of your question regarding communities -- DIAG is aimed at benefiting a wider group of people than DDR. As you know DDR is aimed at individual ex-combatants and finding ways of helping them reintegrate into civilian life. For that reason it takes a while to see the results. DIAG focuses on wider communities and I think you will see that it will deepen the impact of the disarmament process.
Question: In terms of the success of the ammunition survey and collections, when do you think there will be an ammunition free Afghanistan?
Spokesman: When will Afghanistan be free of guns and weapons? This is very difficult for me to say. The main point here it that disarmament in any country is a very long process, particularly when you come out of so many years of conflict as here. It is nonetheless a crucial one. The first part of it, DDR, has been a difficult bit, but it has nonetheless achieved a great deal and I think its successes are noteworthy. We are hoping that DIAG will be similarly successful.
Question: With reference to the Human Rights Watch report, does it reflect positively or negatively on the electoral process and what is the JEMB's reaction? Were any challenges regarding the past criminal record of candidates raised?
Bronwyn Curran, JEMB International Spokesperson: First of all, as an election authority the JEMB would only issue a reaction to an official report concerning elections. In terms of candidates accused of crimes, the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) can provide you with more details. But what I can say is that in the challenge process the ECC received 11038 challenges against a total of 556 candidates. A large number of those challenges alleged that those candidates committed heinous crimes. More than 100 of those candidates were accused of heinous crimes and in some cases the challenges were backed up by, for example, the thumbprints of 25 villagers as a kind of testimony. However as you know under the electoral law candidates who are convicted of crimes cannot run. So it was up to the ECC to check with the Supreme Court and the Attorney General's Department if any of these candidates accused of these crimes had actually been convicted of the crimes. Their mandate is only to reject those found to have a conviction. Names of the candidates accused of crimes were taken to the Supreme Court and the Attorney General's Department and none of them were found to have been convicted. So without a conviction recorded there was no mandate to reject them from contesting the election.
Spokesman: Just coming back to the Human Rights Watch report. Our response is that clearly it is a report that has to be taken very seriously. It raises very important concerns and points to a crucial and difficult question for any country emerging from conflict, which is how to deal with major violations of human rights from the past. The government of Afghanistan has been working on a transitional justice plan. We have been in contact with it [the government] about this plan, which was outlined only a month ago with members of the international community in The Hague. We are continuing to work with the government on this plan, which includes a number of processes to do with transitional justice including vetting, truth, and reparations for victims. These are processes that apply universally and we support the approach being taken.
Question: Has the UNAMA Human Rights team already started a vetting system and do you have any processes to allow for the vetting of the government or former ministers?
Spokesman: Right now, as you know, our political and human rights side has been engaged in priorities related to the election, political rights verification and so on.
Question: According to the Constitution of Afghanistan, those who are sentenced by an authorized court and are condemned for having committed these crimes cannot participate in the elections. But as you said, as the complaints that the ECC has received, does the ECC have the authority to omit the names of those who have complaints against them?
Bronwyn Curran, JEMB International Spokesperson: No, the ECC is subject to the Electoral Law of the Government of Afghanistan. It duly states that candidates who have been convicted of a crime should be not be contesting the elections. So if a candidate is only accused of a crime but not yet convicted of a crime, there is no law in Afghanistan to exclude that candidate from the list. So while the ECC received allegations of crimes against the number of candidates, none of those allegations could be upheld as a conviction. The ECC took the name of every candidate who was accused of a crime in these challenges received by the ECC. Each name was taken to the Supreme Court and the Attorney General's department to check with them if any conviction had been recorded. And none had been recorded for any of these candidates.
Question: Some documents condemn some of the candidates who are participating in the elections. Due to the security situation in Afghanistan, nobody is raising them. What is the JEMB doing to preserve the justice regarding this?
Bronwyn Curran, JEMB International Spokesperson: As an election authority the JEMB is subject to the laws of Afghanistan and the Electoral Law states that candidates can be excluded if they have been convicted of a crime. That is the law of the Government of Afghanistan and the ECC and the JEMB are subject to that law -- they have a very narrow mandate. Neither the ECC nor the JEMB is mandated to investigate crimes. The JEMB is an election authority and the ECC has a narrow mandate to review challenges and complaints against candidates subject to this government's laws which clearly state that a candidate can be excluded if he or she has been convicted of a crime. So it comes down to whether they have been convicted or not.