UN Food Agency Halts Work in North Darfur, Affects 2 Million

CAIRO The World Food Program has suspended its operations across Sudan’s province of North Darfur following recent attacks on its warehouses, a decision expected to affect about 2 million local people.A statement released by the U.N. food agency Thursd…

CAIRO The World Food Program has suspended its operations across Sudan’s province of North Darfur following recent attacks on its warehouses, a decision expected to affect about 2 million local people.

A statement released by the U.N. food agency Thursday said all three of its warehouses in the area were attacked and looted. More than 5,000 tons of food apparently were stolen, the group said.

Earlier in the week, the WFP said an unidentified armed group had attacked one of its warehouses in North Darfur’s provincial capital of el-Fasher. In response, local authorities imposed a curfew across the province.

However, the attacks continued until early Thursday, said the statement. Hundreds of looters have also dismantled warehouse structures, WFP added.

“This theft has robbed nearly 2 million people of the food and nutrition support they so desperately need,” said WFP Executive Director David Beasley. “Not only is this a tremendous setback to our operations across the country, but it endangers our staff and jeopardizes our ability to meet the needs of the most vulnerable families.”

The agency said it cannot divert assistance from other parts of the East African country to the looted warehouses without compromising the needs of vulnerable Sudanese living outside the province.

Sudan is one of the poorest counties in the world, with nearly 11 million people in need of food security and livelihood assistance in 2022, said the WFP.

The agency urged Sudanese authorities to recover the looted stocks and guarantee the security and safety of the WFP operations in North Darfur.

On Thursday, the country’s state-run news agency reported that a number of suspects were arrested in el-Fasher after they were seen riding trucks and animal-drawn carts loaded with food stocks that were allegedly stolen from the WFP warehouses. SUNA news agency did not say how many were arrested.

The WFP decision comes amid political upheaval that followed the October military coup.

On Friday, a doctor’s group said that five people were killed in anti-coup protests that erupted a day earlier in several provinces across the country. Security forces fired tear gas and live ammunition to disperse thousands of protesters, the group said. With Thursday’s fatalities, the total death toll since the coup has risen to 53.

Meanwhile, the Sudanese police acknowledged in a statement issued Friday that four protesters were killed and more than 290 were wounded in the protests. The statement posted on SUNA made no mention of police using tear gas or live ammunition. The police added that more than 40 policemen were wounded in clashes with protesters.

Source: Voice of America

A Final Farewell to South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu

CAPE TOWN The state funeral for Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu has taken place in Cape Town, South Africa, with only 100 mourners allowed inside St. George’s Cathedral because of COVID-19 rules. The anti-apartheid hero and human rig…

CAPE TOWN The state funeral for Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu has taken place in Cape Town, South Africa, with only 100 mourners allowed inside St. George’s Cathedral because of COVID-19 rules. The anti-apartheid hero and human rights activist who died December 26 at the age of 90 had been suffering with prostate cancer.

Desmond Tutu, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his campaign against apartheid, said he wanted the cheapest coffin. And he requsted that money intended for flowers should instead be donated to good causes.

The South African Broadcasting Corporation, airing his funeral Saturday in Cape Town, showed his widow, Leah Tutu, sitting in a wheelchair, listening to the tributes to her famous husband.

There was a televised message from the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who said it was like a mouse giving a tribute to an elephant. He said most messages he’s been receiving from people around the world say that when they were in the dark, Desmond Tutu brought light.

“He never ceased to speak prophetically, he never ceased to speak powerfully, he never ceased to shed light. Many Nobel prize winners’ light fades in time, his grew brighter,” he said.

South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, gave the eulogy. He said among those Tutu spoke up for were the Palestinians and members of the LGBTQ-plus community.

“One of the causes that was dear to him and less well known to many of us was campaigning together with Her Royal Highness Mable from Organje, who is here with us today, against child marriage across the globe. I have learned how the arch traveled to villages in Ethiopia, in India and Zambia to understand the circumstances under which young girls were being forced into marriage. Such was his stamina. Such was his commitment,” he said.

Ramaphosa credited Tutu with being South Africa’s spiritual father. He said the cleric, along with the country’s first democratically elected president, Nelson Mandela, preached hope and forgiveness.

Tutu chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that sought to heal the victims and perpetrators of apartheid’s atrocities.

He coined the term “Rainbow Nation,” referring to people of all colors who lived in South Africa, and of the beauty that could come after the storm.

In recent years, Tutu was critical of South Africa’s ruling party because of rampant crime and corruption in the country.

Ramaphosa alluded to this, “There are times when he felt let down, and yet, he never lost hope. The most fitting tribute we can pay to him, whoever and wherever we are, is to take up the cause of social justice for which he tirelessly campaigned throughout his life. Archbishop Tutu has left a formidable legacy, and we are enormously diminished by his passing.”

Tutu’s daughter, the Reverend Naomi Tutu, also addressed mourners.

“Many of the messages we’ve received have said, ‘thank you for sharing him with the world.’

“Well, it actually is a two-way street because we shared him with the world. You shared part of the love you held for him, with us. And so, we are thankful, and we are thankful that all of you have gathered in your many places. In person or via the wonders of technology, to be a part of celebrating daddy’s life throughout this week.

“And lastly, to him, who has gathered us here, uDaddy, uTata (Xhosa language for daddy). We say thank you, Daddy, for the many ways you showed us love, for the many times you challenged us. For the many times you comforted us,” she said.

Archbishop Tutu is being cremated in a private ceremony and his ashes will be interred in St. George’s Anglican Cathedral.

He is survived by his wife of 66 years, their four children, and nine grandchildren.

Source: Voice of America

Some in Diaspora Respond to Call for Ethiopian Homecoming

Thousands living in the Ethiopian diaspora have begun arriving in the Horn of Africa country, responding to the government’s call for a “great Ethiopian homecoming.”Korso Koji looks forward to joining them soon.“I have friends who have been abroad for …

Thousands living in the Ethiopian diaspora have begun arriving in the Horn of Africa country, responding to the government’s call for a “great Ethiopian homecoming.”

Korso Koji looks forward to joining them soon.

“I have friends who have been abroad for a long time and who believe in the unity of Ethiopia. We will go together,” said Korso, 36, who has a trucking business in Columbus, Ohio, and came from the Oromia region’s town of Shashamane.

Ethiopian leaders hope to draw 1 million diaspora members like Korso to their homeland for celebrations of Orthodox Christmas on January 7 and through the January 19 Feast of the Epiphany and Timkat festivals that commemorate the baptism of Jesus.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who issued the #GreatEthiopianHomeComing challenge in November, greeted diaspora visitors Tuesday with a Twitter post in Amharic reading “Welcome, my brothers and sisters, who have returned home in response to the invitation to show your citizenship!”

Abiy’s #GreatEthiopianHomeComing challenge came as a rebuke to countries such as the United States, France, Germany and Turkey, which last month urged their respective citizens to leave Ethiopia as yearlong fighting between federal troops and forces of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front threatened to reach the capital, Addis Ababa. On November 5, the U.S. State Department ordered nonemergency U.S. government employees and their families to leave “due to armed conflict, civil unrest and possible supply shortages.”

Fighting paused after Ethiopian forces reclaimed some ground, and the TPLF announced December 20 that it would pull back its forces to Tigray from the neighboring Amhara and Afar regions, leaving room for negotiations, diplomats and analysts have said.

In a statement shared Wednesday by state-owned Ethiopian news media, Abiy encouraged the visitors to check out tourist sites and development work — and to “witness the atrocities committed by the terrorist TPLF against our people.” (In mid-December, the U.N. Human Rights Council voted to set up an international commission to investigate alleged violations by all parties in the Tigray conflict.)

Billene Seyoum, spokeswoman for the prime minister, also welcomed diaspora travelers via Twitter this week, saying, “When the world said to run from home, your heart knew the truth! Home is indeed where the heart is.”

In a statement shared Wednesday by state-owned Ethiopian news media, Abiy encouraged the visitors to check out tourist sites and development work — and to “witness the atrocities committed by the terrorist TPLF against our people.” (In mid-December, the U.N. Human Rights Council voted to set up an international commission to investigate alleged violations by all parties in the Tigray conflict.)

Billene Seyoum, spokeswoman for the prime minister, also welcomed diaspora travelers via Twitter this week, saying, “When the world said to run from home, your heart knew the truth! Home is indeed where the heart is.”

Earlier this month, she said the homecoming initiative would “demonstrate that Ethiopia prevails” and would “send a message of unity to the international community.”

If Tesfahun Kahsay has any message to send, it’s to oppose the Ethiopian government’s appeal. A Tigray native, the 50-year-old moved to the United States 25 years ago and lives in a Maryland suburb of Washington.

“While the international community is begging for food and medicine” to be delivered to people in Tigray, “my government is not permitting it, he said, complaining about what rights groups have described as a humanitarian blockade. “So, how do I be part of this campaign while my people are sentenced to death?”

Organizing a group

Abiy Gebrehiwot, who lives in Washington and chairs the nonprofit California-based Council for Ethiopian Diaspora Action, told VOA the council last year brought roughly 500 members to Ethiopia to celebrate the holidays and tour the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, a new hydroelectric power plant on the Nile River. He said for the homecoming, he intends to bring “as large a diaspora community … as possible and engage them in every aspect of the country.”

The council chairman said one goal was to boost Ethiopia’s economy, battered by COVID-19 and the Tigray conflict. It had been the region’s fastest-growing economy, expanding by an annual average of 9.4% for nine years ending in 2019-2020, according to the World Bank. The poor country, with 112 million people and a per capita income of $850, had ambitions to climb to lower-middle-income status by 2025. The Ethiopian diaspora has sent nearly $9 billion in remittances over the past three years, the foreign affairs state minister said this month.

Another goal for the homecoming initiative is “to show the world the country is safe and peaceful” — and to make it an annual event, Abiy Gebrehiwot said.

Alebachew Desalegn, a London-based member of the Ethiopian Diaspora Task Force, said diaspora members would be encouraged to help rebuild war-torn infrastructure during their stays.

“We focus on development, rebuilding the destroyed houses, and helping the homeless,” he told VOA.

‘Honoring’ the call

State-owned Ethiopian Airlines has offered discounts of up to 30% on its fares for homecoming travelers.

The price drop enticed Korso, who paid $1,200 for a ticket and will leave for Ethiopia on January 10. He plans to bring extra suitcases packed with medicine, protective masks and clothing — paid “at my own expense,” he said, to aid Ethiopians.

The group Doctors for Ethiopia has encouraged diaspora travelers to bring medical supplies.

Korso said he and his friends “want to honor” the prime minister’s call “because I believe the pressure being exerted by Americans and Europeans on Ethiopia is not right.”

Tesfahun, in rejecting the homecoming appeal, also referenced reports of Tigrayans allegedly being targeted for arrest and detention. If he went to Ethiopia, he said, “I might not have the same fate as others because of my [U.S.] citizenship. But those are my people from Tigray who got fired from their jobs and live in detention facilities.”

On Wednesday, Demeke Mekonnen, deputy prime minister and foreign affairs minister, presided over a welcoming ceremony at Wodajinet Park in the capital, Addis Ababa. According to the state-owned Ethiopian News Agency, he called on diaspora members to support the federal government’s reconstruction efforts.

Source: Voice of America