Angola + 8 more

JRS Dispatches No. 126

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(Extracted from JRS Dispatches No. 126)
Twice monthly news bulletin from the Jesuit Refugee Service International Office

REFUGEE NEWS BRIEFINGS

ZAMBIAN GOVERNMENT ASKS RWANDAN REFUGEES TO PREPARE FOR REPATRIATION

The Zambian government issued a statement through the minister of Home Affairs on 12 December 2002, stating that all Rwandans living in Zambia should prepare for repatriation this year. This followed meetings between the Rwandan and Zambian authorities and UNHCR, to discuss social and political developments that are on- going in Rwanda. However, the Rwandan community has received the information with mixed feelings, reports JRS Zambia. Most of the urban Rwandan refugees that JRS has talked to voiced concerns at the prospect of returning at the present moment. They seem confused as to why the government wants them to leave now, at a time when they feel it is not yet safe to return, even though relative peace has been restored. The Zambian government also stated that it will not give protection to those suspected of genocide in Rwanda. However, many of the refugees are concerned as to what criteria are going to be used to establish who participated in such acts. There has been a lot of ethnic tension between Rwandan communities taking refuge in Zambia and some refugees fear that animosity between ethnic groups may lead to false accusations and finger-pointing upon return.

FEBRUARY 12: FIRST ANNIVERSARY OF UN "CHILD SOLDIERS" TREATY

To mark the first anniversary of the entry into force of an international treaty banning the use of child soldiers on 12 February, the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers warned that the problem, far from being solved, is still prevalent. "The problem is not decreasing but, with each new conflict, children are at risk of being drawn into the fighting," read a statement issued by the Coalition, a group formed in 1998 by six leading NGOs, including JRS.

The Coalition's statement also warned the international community against assuming that the issue of child soldiers could be struck-off simply because their use was banned by international law. Although 111 countries have now signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, only 46 countries have actually ratified the treaty, thus making a binding legal commitment to enforce the Optional Protocol. To read more about the Coalition's statement go to http://www.jrs.net/alerts/un30212e.htm

ZAMBIA: UNFAIR TREATMENT OF RWANDAN AND BURUNDIAN REFUGEES

JRS and the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace issued a joint press statement highlighting the unfair treatment of Rwandan and Burundian refugees by the Zambian government security authorities. The issues of concern raised in the statement include indiscriminate arrests, raids on homes in the early hours of the morning, and indefinite detention for those found without proper documentation. The round-ups have specifically targeted Rwandans and Burundi nationals who own small businesses in and around the cities.

Meanwhile, the Immigration Department arrested nine refugees from Meheba refugee settlement following claims by some Burundian and Congolese residents that the group was planning an arson attack on the Tutsi community. After further investigations, seven of the men were released and returned to Meheba, while two have been detained and taken to Lusaka Central Prison. Independent reports from Meheba suggest that the group which made the accusations may have had their own motives for doing so, including a wish to be resettled in a third country. JRS has intervened with UNHCR and the Ministry of Home Affairs (Commissioner for Refugees) to ensure that the case is processed in a fair manner.

IVORY COAST A SOURCE OF TENSION IN WEST AFRICA

Ivory Coast is becoming more and more a new source of tension in Western Africa, writes JRS in the region. Despite the recent signing of a peace accord in Paris, it is clear that there are many problems that still have to be resolved before the different warring groups can peacefully co-exist. Clashes continue and the capital, Abidjan, is badly affected by violence and vandalism. The main source of the new tensions are the supporters of President Gbagbo, who have refused to accept the conditions that were agreed to by the various parties to the peace agreement. The present wave of violence erupted with an armed rebellion in September 2002 and has led to the displacement of tens of thousands of people.

UPDATES ON JRS PROJECTS AND ACTIVITIES

THE REPATRIATION PROCESS IN ANGOLA

The signing of the cease-fire agreement between the Government of Angola and the rebel UNITA group in April 2002 opened new areas of access for JRS. JRS Angola began working in Cazombo in September 2002 responding to the desperate situation of the local population and returnees from Zambia. During this time JRS Cazombo worked as a satellite project of JRS Luena. The first interventions were in programmes of food and non-food item distributions with the support of Trocaire/Ireland Aid, Cordaid and Caritas Angola. From January 2003, JRS Cazombo became part of the JRS Repatriation Project for Angolan refugees. At present, JRS continues its work in distributing food and non-food items but is also preparing for the return of refugees from Zambia and other countries and the integration of these people into the local communities. We are currently engaged in the rehabilitation of offices and accommodation for the JRS team at the Mission Sao Bento in Cazombo. JRS remains grateful for the support of Bishop Bilingue and the Diocese of Luena in this undertaking. The Government of Angola has extended an invitation to JRS to engage in rehabilitation of schools in the surrounding areas of Cazombo and engage in teacher formation and upgrading. JRS Cazombo is currently developing proposals to work with youth in peace education and professional formation, land mine awareness and sustainable agriculture programmes. Both local and returning populations will be invited to participate in these projects. The current JRS Cazombo core team comprises two Angolans, and in February they will be joined by a third Angolan who will work as the Project Director. We have articulated a commitment to maintain a balance within the JRS team of local population and returnees; in this way we attempt to provide a positive example of reintegration and reconciliation. The JRS Repatriation Project is also in the process of establishing a head office in Luanda to support JRS Cazombo and subsequent repatriation projects elsewhere in the country.

JRS USA CALLS ON CONGRESS TO APPROVE BUDGET ON FOOD AID TO EASE FAMINE CRISIS IN ETHIOPIA

In a letter published in the Washington Times on 1 February, JRS USA Director Rick Ryscavage S.J calls on the US Congress to pass the budget level for food aid of $1.2 billion in the President's budget for 2003, as soon as possible, in response to the very serious food crisis in Ethiopia. An estimated 10 to 12 million people are currently at risk of starvation in Ethiopia because of the famine conditions there. The letter praises the actions of the US Senate, which recently passed a bill appropriating $500 million to the crisis, and calls upon the Congress to match that response. "This is the most time-urgent and threatening humanitarian crisis that the international humanitarian community has faced in many years. On behalf of the American people, the Congress must act promptly and generously", reads the letter. JRS in Ethiopia launched an appeal for displacement prevention and relief needs on Christmas day 2002. To find out more about the present food crisis in Ethiopia, including how to make a donation, go to http://www.jrs.net/alerts/etlatest.htm

TANZANIA: EDUCATION FOR REFUGEE CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES

Presently there are no special education facilities or services being offered to the most vulnerable children with disabilities in the refugee camps in Tanzania. In light of this gap, JRS pre-schools in Lukole camp, Ngara, will start a new project which will welcome and provide basic education services to children under the age of 12 with disabilities, especially those with mental and severe disabilities. The special schooling aims to help the students in their personal development and to increase their own capacity to cope with their environment, giving them a chance to integrate into their communities. The project will be up and running at the beginning of May 2003 and the educators' training has already commenced.

UPDATES FROM JRS IN UGANDA AND SOUTHERN SUDAN

The JRS Urban programme in Kampala has registered a big increase in the number of asylum seekers, the majority of whom are women and their children. Another new trend is the flow of refugees from Burundi and Sudan coming from the government held areas, Juba and Khartoum. Unfortunately the heavy rains in December caused flooding in Kampala and the refugees and asylum seekers living in areas such as Mengo and Kisenyi were badly affected.

JRS Kajokeji, Southern Sudan, began the year with a workshop for teachers that took place between 6th January and 1st February. 37 teachers, 9 of them female, attended the course with four of the seven facilitators being Ugandan nationals. As well as the normal school subjects, Peace Education and Conflict Resolution techniques were an additional component to the workshop. These topics were included with the aim of instilling a new understanding among teachers in order to pave the way for the introduction of peace education in schools as well as to strengthen the capacity and competence of the community peace educators. Two visitors from Entreculturas, who had travelled to Kajokeji to familiarise themselves with the JRS projects, were able to meet with the teachers and facilitators and experience a taste of the workshop.

JRS EDUCATION PROJECTS FOR 2003 IN UGANDA

- Preparations for the beginning of the school year included an assessment of all nursery school structures to determine whether renovation or new construction was needed. According to reliable sources, some refugees have returned to Maaji area with their children, though there is a need to continue investigating the conditions of security in this area before decisions are made regarding whether the nursery schools will be opened for the new school year.

- A workshop for 65 teachers who failed their level-two training last year is being planned, to enable them to re-sit their exams and undertake teaching practice.

- Maintenance and repair of primary school classrooms is on-going in a number of schools, with the communities collecting local materials and contributing manual labour and JRS providing funding for other materials.

- Sanitation Workshop: A workshop was organised for senior female teachers and school head girls to raise awareness and instruct the participants on the use of sanitary facilities in the schools.

- The Alere Building Project is complete. The careful supervision of each stage of the project has ensured that it has remained within budget. It is anticipated that the balance of funds will be used to construct laboratory stools and purchase books for the new library.

- A pilot project initiated by JRS last year to encourage female students to stay in school by paying a third of their school fees has been deemed a success. It will be expanded to cover all female students in the JRS-supported schools this year.

- Peace Education, Conflict Resolution and HIV/AIDS Education workshops and activities were also recently conducted in an effort to raise awareness and mobilise the communities on the issues.

THE JRS/REFUGEE COMMUNITY CENTRE IN ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA

By Sr. Lolín Menéndez, JRS Education Resource Person For Africa

The JRS/Refugee Community Centre (RCC) in Addis Ababa is a place where urban refugees can come and feel at home. They can avail of services such as counselling, sports, videos, music and computer lessons. The purpose of my recent visit was to assist the education personnel of the RCC to take concrete steps in order to implement the recommendations made by an external evaluation of October 2002. One of the main activities of the RCC is the provision of language courses: English, French and Amharic. We looked at materials used in the various programmes, and agreed that there is a need for audio-visual materials that are adapted to an African context. We also interviewed potential teachers for French and English classes, paying particular attention to the professional competence of applicants and to their familiarity with current methodology of language teaching and the psychology of adult education.

Recent donations have given the Library at the RCC a fresh look. We discussed ways of making the library function also as a resource centre for beneficiaries and staff. Future purchases will focus on needs and interests expressed by those who use the library, and on resourcing JRS staff in their fields of competence. Children who attend the Day Care Centre delight in the colourful playground equipment recently donated by the American Embassy. Play time alternates with periods of English and Maths, songs and story telling. The older children also have special programmes, such as on AIDS awareness. The Day Care Centre will retain its original aim of providing children with a place to socialise with others from different countries, as well as someone with time to listen to them, to play with them, to really care for them.

JRS DISPATCHES is from the International Office of Jesuit Refugee Service, CP 6139, 00195 Roma Prati, Italy. Tel: +39-06 689.77.390; Fax: +39-06 688 06 418; Email: dispatches@jrs.net; JRS on-line: http://www.jrs.net; Publisher: Lluís Magriñà SJ; Editor: Hugh Delaney; Translation: Ignacio Echaniz (Spanish), Edith Castel (French), Centro Astalli/JRS Italy (Italian).