Sep 24, 2017 Last Updated 10:33 AM, Sep 22, 2017
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United Nations member states have expressed alarm at the ongoing rights violations in Burundi. 

During the 36th Regular Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in New York on Tuesday speaker after speaker spoke of abductions, executions and torture being carried out in the East African country, before urging the Burundian authorities to cooperate with the UNHCR.

Trial, an international NGO comprising civil society organisations fighting impunity for war crimes, sent an open letter to the human rights council.

The letter, entitled “Renewing the Mandate of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi and Ensuring Accountability for Serious Crimes”, urged the council to support a resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Burundi.

It also called on the UNHRC to explore all options to ensure accountability for the crimes documented by the COI.

These included the opening of an investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) whose Office of the Prosecutor announced the opening of a preliminary examination on 25 April 2016.

In addition, the UNHRC was urged to call for Burundi’s suspension from the Council, or at a minimum, to explicitly request the General Assembly to take up the matter in accordance with a previous resolution.

“The COI has confirmed the continuation of serious human rights violations from April 2015 to date, including extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests and detention, torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment,” the letter read.

Enforced disappearances and sexual violence perpetrated mainly by the National Intelligence Service (SNR), members of the Imbonerakure, the youth wing of the ruling party, the police and the army were also outlined.

“The COI confirmed that they have reasonable grounds to believe that several of the violations documented constitute crimes against humanity.”

More than 400,000 people have fled Burundi since April 2015.

The government is not revealing the amount of money it is expected to spend for the delegates attending the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) later this month.

Similar meetings in the past have been characterised by a large contingent who included party zealots and traditional leaders, a development that led to the abuse of public funds.

The government was also taken to task after some parastatals were forced to fund people attending the UN General Assembly.

Commenting on the issue, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Emmanuel Fabiano reveals that 19 people will attend the meeting, among them three ministers and President Peter Mutharika.

Fabiano added that the delegation includes three cabinet ministers, senior government officials and some members of the media.

Apart from that, there will be no party representatives in the delegation.

In the past years, President Peter Mutharika and his administration have come under pressure and scrutiny over allegations of bloated entourages to the UN General Assembly which is a drain of public funds. 

Mutharika has also been criticised over his prolonged stay in the states after conclusion of the meeting.

The UN general assembly is expected to start on the 19th of this month up to the 25th.

The UNGA one of the six principal organs of the United Nations (UN), the only one in which all member nations have equal representation, and the main deliberative, policy-making and representative organ of the UN.

Malawi is launching its first-ever National Plan of Action against Trafficking in Persons on Tuesday next week in Lilongwe.

The government enacted the Trafficking in Persons Act in 2015 to help combat trafficking in persons and ensure effective enforcement of the Act.

A statement signed by Secretary of Home Affairs and Internal Security Samuel Madula, indicates that the trafficking in persons plan of action is promoting prevention of trafficking in persons and support and social protection of Victims.

This includes investigation and prosecution of trafficking offences and partnership, coordination and sustainable financing

The United Nations General Assembly in the year 2013 proclaimed 30th July of each year as a Day against trafficking in persons when Nations across the world should raise awareness on the situation of victims of human trafficking and for the promotion and protection of their rights.

However, Stakeholders in Malawi agreed to raise awareness for a period of 30 days that started on 30th July 2017, ending on 29th August 2017.

This is under the National theme that calls for accelerating sustainable partnership: a key to Malawi action against trafficking in persons.

Last month, the United Nations commemorated the fourth annual World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. 

Initially designated in 2013 by the United Nations General Assembly, this day was set aside to raise awareness of this growing crime, now the third largest criminal enterprise globally.

There are currently 22.5 million refugees worldwide, who are at a disproportionately high risk of being trafficked.

A representative of the United Nations in Malawi Mia Seppo is expressing shock over continued reports of racial abuse and discrimination against minorities in the ongoing National Identity Registration Exercise.

According to Seppo the country’s constitution is very strong on prohibiting discrimination of any form, it does not matter whether they are citizens through birth or marriage or even registration.

Asian, Caucasian and mixed race Malawians and other minority groups are still having their nationality questioned when registering for IDs, despite having the required supporting documents.

One of the most notable incidences is on local artist Theo Thomson who recorded a video of what he encountered at one centre in the commercial capital Blantyre.

In the video the artist is questioned on his nationality and threatened of what may come if he does not stop recording the video.

Uploaded on his facebook page, the video has hundreds of comments many of which are against what Thomson was subjected to with others narrating the hurdles they had to endure during the process of getting registered.

Some of the comments state that the people responsible should be ‘held accountable’ and that facing discrimination because of skin colour is ‘disgusting’ and ‘appalling’.

There has been an outrage on Social Media over the matter, as victims of discrimination have been naming and shaming centres where they faced abuse from Registration officials.

Fears are also being raised that minority groups will not be represented in the 2019 Election, as they are currently being frustrated by some Registration officials.

According to Media sources, the ID will be a crucial document in the identification of eligible voter registrants.

The National ID cards are being issued to all Malawian citizens aged 16 and above, while children under the age of 16 can be registered by their parents or legal guardians.

The Government of Malawi through the National Registration Bureau-NRB is conducting the exercise with funding and technical expertise from the United Nations Development Fund (UNDP).

Ethiopians were still unable to surf the web via mobile networks on Tuesday, despite government claims the nationwide internet shutdown, which began a week ago, had been lifted.

Africa's second-most-populous country turned off its internet access without warning or explanation last week, briefly depriving even diplomatic buildings, like the UN's Economic Commission for Africa and the headquarters of the African Union, of internet access.

While service to those two institutions was restored and subscribers to broadband internet say they are now able to get online, access via mobile data -- which is most used by businesses and individuals -- was still unavailable.

This is despite government assurances that the blockage had been lifted.

In a press conference on Monday, Communications Minister Negeri Lencho said the internet had been "partly" shut down for three days last week and that social media sites were the only services that remained blocked.

Negeri said the shutdown was a measure necessary to keep students taking annual exams away from distractions on social media.

"The only reason is to help our students to concentrate on the exams because we know we are fighting poverty," Negeri said.

Ethiopia's sole telecommunications provider has blocked social media websites like Facebook and Twitter since anti-government protests broke out last year.

The country is among the least-connected in Africa, with only about 12 percent of people online, the International Telecommunications Union reported in 2015.

The Brookings Institution think tank released a report last October saying the country only lost around $8.5 million (7.5 million euros) when internet access was cut off for weeks during last year's unrest.

"People invest a lot of money in China, where the internet is already very difficult," John Ashbourne, Africa economist a London-based Capital Economics told AFP. "These are not insurmountable problems, but they're frustrations."

The internet cafe where Abiy Tesfaye works in Addis Ababa's busy Piazza neighbourhood runs off mobile data  and only one customer was using one of his 14 computers.

The business has been suffering for years as more and more people browse the internet with smartphones, Abiy said, and the internet shutdown was the latest blow.

"We lose money, we don't have the customers. It's a shame," he said.

Around the corner, Dereje Alemayehu Nida's cafe was doing a brisk business in people filling out visa applications and surfing Facebook, but that's only because his broadband internet access came back online over the weekend after days without connectivity.

"It would have been better if they used another means to control the exams rather than shut down the internet," Dereje said. 

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