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No Right To Force The Legalization Of Same-Sex Union By Hannatu Musawa.


 

Hannatu Musawa
Columnist:

Hannatu Musawa

The signing of the Same-sex Prohibition Act by President Jonathan on January 7 2014, elicited negative reactions from Western countries such as the US, member countries of the European Union and Canada. They have consistently mounted pressure on the federal government over the president’s signing of the Same-Sex Prohibition Act 2014, claiming that the law is a violation of the fundamental human rights of Nigerians with same sex orientation.

Notably, the law does not only criminalize same-sex marriage, it also makes public displays of affection and even socializing in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and inter-sex community illegal. The US ambassador to Nigeria, Mr James Entwistle threatened that his country would scale down its support for HIV/AIDS and anti-malaria programs in response to government’s position on the gay rights issue. The Vanguard also reported that they learnt the US is committing “substantial” resources to fund the emergence of gay clubs and advocacy groups in Nigeria. The Canadian government canceled a planned state visit by President Jonathan scheduled for next month. The Canadian government’s action is believed to be that country’s reaction to the president’s assenting to the bill, which has so far enjoyed popular support in Nigeria.

Since 2011, certain Western countries have been considering and implementing laws that limit or prohibit general budget support to countries that restrict the rights of homosexuals. Regardless of this, many African countries have continued to refuse pressure to legalize homosexual practices. Many African leaders feel that gay rights are against Africa’s culture and religious value systems and believe that they have the sovereign right to reject what is seen as an imposition by Western nations that attempts to affect national sentiments via aid. While I vehemently disagree with the laws that impose the death penalty on those who come out as homosexuals, the reality is that same sex acts are illegal in about 38 African countries and actual enforcement varies widely and punishment ranges from prison sentences to the Draconian sentence of the death penalty.

In Mauritania, Sudan and Nigeria, homosexuality is a serious punishable crime. In Uganda, Tanzania and Sierra Leone, offenders can receive life imprisonment for homosexual acts. South Africa’s constitution is the most liberal towards gays and lesbians within the continent, with a constitution that guarantees gay and lesbian rights and legal same sex marriage. However, even there, gay rights have been described as an “exclusive privilege of the whites and well-heeled, a small but high-profile subset.”

The raucousness from Western nations that has been accompanying the banning of same sex unions in some parts of Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia has risen to a crescendo. And in their bid to ram the freedom of same sex unions down the throat of more traditional and conservative nations, the west has discarded high-minded rhetoric for bullying tactics dressed in the guise of human rights mantras. The result? Hypocrisy has taken center stage as the preferred response of the west in their bid to redefine the limits of marriage, privacy and religious freedom in some African, Eastern European and Asian countries.

The hypocrisy of the west regarding their stance on the banning of same sex unions is most apparent when considered next to the position taken on polygamy under western laws. In most western nations, the practice of polygamy is not only frowned upon but has been criminalized. The hypocrisy and bully politics of the west in regards to the banning of same sex unions occurs when Western countries pass laws that limits the boundaries of marriage, privacy and religious freedom in line with their value system while they employ strategies and tactics to intimidate, harass, undermine, threaten and abuse other countries for doing the same.

In the case of Reynolds vs. United States, the American courts declined accepting polygamy as a legitimate religious practice, dismissing it as “almost exclusively a feature of the life of Asiatic and African people.” While that particular case is very old, in later decisions, American courts have declared polygamy to be “a blot on our civilization” and compared it to human sacrifice and “a return to barbarism.”

In all the countries that have banned homosexual unions, traditions and religion defines the issue and because most countries have varying values of which they adhere to and are guided by, none should have a right to impose their value system on another. Not only is the practice of polygamy one of the common threads between Christians, Jews and Muslims, studies have found polygamy present in 78% of the world’s cultures. In the same way that countries that accept polygamy have no right to force western nations to legalize polygamy, western nations have no right to impose same sex unions on the countries that ban it.

As a sovereign nation, Nigeria has a right to ban same sex unions in the same way the west has banned polygamy. Indeed the anti-gay legislation is a reaffirmation of core Nigerian values, as the Nigerian society is, to a great extent, based on respect for traditions and religion. The leadership in Nigeria has taken a position on a practice that is alien to its culture and its religious and traditional institutions. The public relations officer of the northern Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) stated that Christians and their counterparts in other religions have unanimously expressed gratitude to the president and National Assembly for passing the Anti Same-Sex Marriage law, despite opposition from Europe and the US. Similarly, the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria (MSSN), Lagos State, commended the president for signing the bill into law. The group applauded the president for standing his ground, despite pressure to reject the anti-gay bill by some international organizations and foreign countries.

In line with traditions that don’t prohibit same sex unions, neither of the two dominant religions of the world supports homosexuality. In the scriptures, marriage is a sacred contract between a man and a woman that cannot be redefined and it is the cornerstone of family life. In the Bible, passages in the book of Leviticus prohibit homosexuality. Chapter 18:22 states, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.” Similarly, chapter 20:13 also states, “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.” Jews and Christians have historically interpreted these two verses as the clear prohibition of homosexual acts. Furthermore, the story of Sodom and Gomorrah has historically been interpreted as condemning homosexual acts.

In Islam, the traditional schools of Islamic law based on Qur’anic verses and hadith consider homosexual acts a punishable crime and a sin. The Qur’an cites the story of the “people of Lot” (also known as the people of Sodom and Gomorrah), destroyed by the wrath of God, because they engaged in “lustful” carnal acts between men. The Qur’an contains seven references to the people of Lot; 7:80-84, 11:77-83, 21:74, 22:43, 26:165-175, 27:56-59 and 29:27-33, and their destruction by Allah is associated explicitly with their sexual practices.

In 2012, the Nigerian parliament approved a bill banning same sex marriage despite threats from the US and UK that they would consider withholding aid if the country didn’t recognize gay rights. Curiously though in the US, 17 states out of 50 (less than half) have endorsed same-sex practices and others reject its legality. This means that even in the US, not all its citizens are in support of same-sex practices.

Nigeria and the countries that have banned same sex unions have cultures that are clear and intact and they have a right to rededicate themselves to their traditional values. Same-sex marriage is inconsistent with Nigerian values of procreation and the belief in the continuity of family and clan. And in that vein, Nigeria has a right to fashion its laws in accordance with its values and traditions.

It increasingly seems that the Western countries’ mandate is to coerce African states to institutionalize behavior systems that they frown upon or deem illegal. There is the urgent need for these African states and the Nigerian leadership not to be dependent on foreign assistance for governance. Nigeria and the continent should use its net worth to dismantle the entrenched dependence syndrome and to also say no, no matter how many times they are accused of not adhering to the value system of the West. Aid given with strings attached is not worth it. Nigeria should not lose its moral and spiritual integrity for the sake of aid.

Just like with polygamists in Western countries, a day of social acceptance is unlikely to come for homosexuals in Nigeria and most African and Asian countries. It is unlikely that any law will be passed in Nigeria where the act of same sex marriage will be legalized. No matter, the rights of every nation to infuse its value system into its laws should not be based on the views of other nations, but on each nations individual principle.

Despite one’s view on the subject matter, there is no doubt that Nigeria has a right to enact laws that are reflective of its traditions and religious values and norms. No country has a right to dictate another countries laws that defines the boundaries of marriage, privacy and religious freedom. Thus, just as Nigeria has no right to harass America, Canada or any other nation to enforce and adopt polygamy and other traditional practices into their statutes, these nations also have no right to harass Nigeria to adopt laws that legalize homosexuality. The more the West continues to malign Nigeria for passing laws that prohibit certain modern western value systems, while they hold onto laws that disallow traditional practices acceptable in Nigeria, their hue and cry over human rights becomes a little more than hype and they become much more than hypocrites. May each country be free to preserve the value systems they wish to be defined by and adopt the laws of which they wish to be governed.

Article Written by Hannatu Musawa

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Source: SAHARA REPORTERS.

Nigeria’s Retrogressive Anti-Gay Law By Abiodun Ladepo.


By Abiodun Ladepo

This past Wednesday, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan elevated crassness and primitiveness to the highest level imaginable by signing into law a bill banning homosexuality in Nigeria.  I deliberately crafted the previous sentence so unambiguously.  He did not just ban homosexual marriage; he banned homosexuality as a whole!  Perhaps if the law had only stopped at “persons who enter into a same-sex marriage contract or civil union commit an offence and are each liable on conviction to a term of 14 years in prison,” one might not feel so much outrage.  But it went on to state that “any person who registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organizations or directly or indirectly makes public show of same-sex amorous relationship in Nigeria commits an offence and shall each be liable on conviction to a term of 10 years in prison”!  In essence, only heterosexuals are allowed to hold hands in public, sit on each other’s lap, hump each other while dancing in clubs or kiss publicly.  What, in the name of God, just happened to Nigeria?

Let me state upfront that I am a Straight (heterosexual) guy who is happily married to a beautiful woman.  So, this write-up is not about me or my sexual preference.  It is about Nigeria’s lack of originality and lack of creative instincts.  We the people, along with our leaders, fail to do the deep thinking, the due diligence, in many respects that will take our country farther and more quickly than we have hitherto done.  Lethargy is irredeemably ingrained in our psyche.  Otherwise, how does being openly gay draw our country back?  We already have thousands of gay people in our midst!  How does their gayness prevent those of us who are not gay from going about our businesses?

This law assumes that the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community just arrived in Nigeria yesterday.  No, the LGBT has been with us since, at least, when I was a young boy over 50 years ago.  I recall growing up in (yes) Zaria, Kaduna State, of all places, and going to watch evening dances of members of the LGBT.  We used to call them “Dandaudu.”  We, the kids, used to marvel at their public display of amorous acts.  This was in the early 60s.  They were not hidden behind the walls of any clubs in the middle of the night; they danced in open spaces and in early evenings.  I have also personally witnessed “Dandaudus” doing their dances in Bukuru, Jos, Bauchi and Maiduguri in the 70s.  And if you lived in the hostel during your secondary school years, don’t tell me that you did not catch a few of your guy friends “doing it.”  I have heard from some of my secondary school female friends of the sexual trysts that went on in their hostel.  Let’s not even talk about what happens in the dorms of our universities.  So, why are we just now finding out that their presence in our midst is anathema and antithetical to our moral fiber?

Reuben Abati, that formerly celebrated anti-bad government champion, who is now a turncoat and who I now detest with so much passion, defended the law with the pedestrian argument that since 90 percent of Nigerians were opposed to same-sex marriage, “…the law is in line with our cultural and religious beliefs.”   Ninety percent?  First, how did we come up with that percentage?  When did we poll the country to ascertain that 90 percent of our people oppose same-sex marriage?  And even if they do, what right does the majority have to trample on the basic right of the minority – the fundamental human right to freedom of association?  What right does the majority have to deprive the minority of having sex with whomever it wants as long as it is consensual?  The worst that the Nigerian government should have been able to do should have been the denial of official recognition of such a union. But to criminalize it is akin to despotism, especially in a democratic dispensation.

And by the way, since when has this government or any past Nigerian government taken a decision in favor of an issue perceived to have received the support of the majority of Nigerians?  Don’t 90 percent of our people support the removal or Stella Oduah as Aviation minister, Diezani Madueke as Petroleum minister and Reuben Abati as adviser?  Don’t 90 percent of our people support the banning of government officials, especially the President, from seeking medical attention abroad until our medical facilities and personnel are of the same standard as those they use when they go abroad?  Don’t 90 percent of our people support the supply of 24/7 uninterrupted electricity to all corners of Nigeria?  Don’t 90 percent of our people support the revamping, rejuvenating and reinvigorating of the EFCC so it can better fight corruption?  Don’t 90 percent of our people support a massive overhaul of our educational infrastructures from elementary all the way to university systems?  Don’t 90 percent of our people oppose the blocking of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway by mega-churches and mega-mosques?  Have our lawmakers crafted any laws that criminalize the failure by government to do the things mentioned above?  No.  But these nosey people are eager to get into the bedrooms of Nigerians.

I find this homophobic inclination that is so rampant in our country as yet another example of religious zealotry and self-righteousness that have been the bane of our society.  Everybody is stampeding and trampling each other today in their quest to out-do one another as they condemn homosexuality.  But we will find out one day – tomorrow maybe -  just as we have found out in Europe and America that even family members of influential government officials can be (and are indeed) gay!  In fact, we will soon find out that membership in the LGBT community cuts across all spectra of our society – from the ranks of elected politicians, to traditional rulers, military officers, police officers, teachers, technocrats, pastors, imams, babalawos, traders and what not.  And what are we going to do when we find out that one of these influential people whom we had thought was heterosexual was indeed bisexual?  Would we throw OBJ or IBB or GEJ or Mama Iyabo or Dame Patience or any of their children into 14 years of prison terms if any of them turns out to be gay? What would we do when we discover that Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye or his wife, Folu do engage in homosexual acts (with other partners, of course)?  What about Sheik Muhammad Yahaya Sanni and his many wives?  Are we going to give them immunity against prosecution?

This is why I stated earlier that our leaders did not subject this law to a rigorous and intellectual discuss before allowing their emotion, religion and communal bandwagon mentality to overtake their sense of reason.  Before the bill was adopted by the Senate in 2011, a few Nigerian members of the LGBT community, supported by some civil rights activists, appeared before the Senate to argue against enacting such a law.  The lawmakers and religious zealots in the chambers of the Senate booed and heckled these gay folks till they cried and left in disgrace.  Among the booing and heckling crowd were men who maintain two, three, four or more wives – wives who are subjugated, mentally and are physically abused.  Among this crowd were women who cheat on their husbands with their pastors and imams to the extent of making babies out-of-wedlock while their husbands thought the babies were theirs.  These people, in my opinion, lack the moral right to tell a gay man or woman whom to love and whom to cavort with in public.

Believe me, gays are the least of Nigeria’s problems.  Graft in high places, greed in high places, hired assassination, kidnapping, murder, armed robbery, neglect of rural areas, neglect of urban areas, lack of functioning basic amenities like electricity, water, hospitals, education, transportation, youth unemployment – all take precedence over what my neighbor is doing in his/her bedroom.  I am ashamed that my leaders do not see this.

And I get it. I get the fact that Nigeria is a deeply religious country.  Even if I wonder how truly religious we are when we watch our religious leaders steal from the religious houses and sexually abuse the laity; even if I sometimes wonder why our religious leaders live in obscene opulence while they watch their followers wallow in abject poverty, I still get the fact that Nigeria is a deeply religious country.  It is the reason why an issue such as gay rights should have been thoroughly debated intellectually.  I hope the passing of this primitive and retrogressive law begins the rigorous discussion of how we allow members of the LGBT to bask in their rightful sense of belonging.  We should lead Namibia, Botswana, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia, Angola, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan, Cameroon, Togo, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leon, Guinea, Senegal, Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia out of the comity of nations still wedded to the archaic tradition of segregating their own people on the basis of sexual preferences.

We should join South Africa, Zaire, Congo, Gabon, Central African Republic, Chad, Niger, Mali (yes, Chad, Niger and Mali), Burkina Faso, Benin Republic, Cote D’Ivoire and Guinea Bissau in the comity of nations that embrace the diversity of their people’s sexual preferences and have legislated to protect the rights of their LGBT people.

By Abiodun Ladepo

Los Angeles, California, USA

Oluyole2@yahoo.com

 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

South Sudan Crisis: A Lesson For Rabid Seccesionists By Raheem Oluwafunminiyi.


By Raheem Oluwafunminiyi

The month of July, 2011 marked a turning point in the history of South Sudan. Not only did it eventually come out of over two and half decades of a bloody civil war in Sudan after intense struggle with its northern neighbour, but also succeeded in becoming the newest independent state in Africa. Like the hopes many African states had in the 60s and 70s of gaining independence from colonial rule, so was that of South Sudan. The hope that self-rule was going to mark the beginning of good things to come for the periphery countries and its teeming population quickly ignited series of nationalist movements and bred leaders who not only sabotaged the continued efforts of the colonial overlords to keep holding forth their respective colonies but put willful pressures on colonial structures which led firstly to decolonisation and ultimately independence.

It was hoped and believed that at the turn of independence, self-rule would transform the continent into one filled with socio-economic development, credible democracy and a total commitment to the uplift of the people. This however failed to yield any meaningful result. Hopes of a brighter tomorrow were soon shattered as gloom set in. The Congo became the first casualty while more than half of all African countries which had newly gained their independence went either into a civil war or found itself overthrown by blood thirsty and gun wielding military men. Africa since then had known no peace. It was in the light of this, amidst the decade long sufferings South Sudan had faced over time that it was thought a separate country was needed to be carved out to give the people a new lease of life and breathe of fresh air. Anyone who had lived in Sudan in the last two to three decades and knew well the historical evolution of that part of the former Sudan would agree that its people had suffered a great deal in the hands of its northern neighbours, such that the only solution to a lasting peace was to grant that part of the country swift independence. However, no one would have envisaged that two years into South Sudan’s independence; it would fall into crisis which appears to threaten its very foundation.

As a landlocked country, South Sudan is among the world’s most impoverished country with less than one per cent of its population having access to electricity. Despite being the third-largest oil exporter in sub-Saharan Africa after Nigeria and Angola, the new nation is not only awash with guns after a long battle with Khartoum, but has been grappling with corruption and lawlessness since independence. The current crisis in South Sudan is perceived to have both ethnic and political dimensions. The current president, Salva Kiir is from the Dinka ethnic group, the country’s largest, while his main rival and former Vice President, Riek Machar belongs to the Nuer ethnic group, the country’s second largest. This ethnic rivalry forms part of the current crisis bedeviling the country with each group systematically killing one another in their respective places of domicile. The political angle to the crisis which has seen tensions rise between Kiir and Machar since July of this year stems from the latter’s intention to win the leadership of the ruling party ahead of presidential elections in 2015. This quickly led to his sacking by Kiir and his cabinet. The political tension soon snowballed when Kiir accused Machar of attempting a coup on the 15th of December, a situation which saw the arrest of opposition figures and former cabinet members.

Apart from the fact that the crisis have left hundreds dead, with figures quoting about 500, the number of people displaced as a result of the crisis has tripled to about 81,000 with the number increasing by the day. Also, the United Nations has asked for another 5,500 troops from other UN missions in Arica to complement the 7,000 already deployed across the country. It is saddening that the African continent has failed to learn from history and have therefore consumed by its lack of it. When other countries of the world are seeking ways to better the lot of its people and move their country towards growth and development, African countries wallow in ethnic and political rivalry. It is disheartening to find a country that had come out of a long period of turmoil engaging in the same crisis that gave them life support. It is only hoped things will return to normalcy soon.

With the entire crisis bedeviling many African states today, no country has been able to hold its head up high than the Nigerian state in terms of managing conflicts and civil disobedience in all guises. Since the 1967 civil war, Nigeria has been in a state of precipice. There have been over a very long time talks about Nigeria’s disintegration. The most saddening part of it came from the United States which noted, like a prophet of doom, that Nigeria would seize to exist by 2015. Locally, a lot of rabble-rousing and threatening voices have sprang up, especially in the Niger-Delta region where predictions of a possible breakup of Nigeria would take place if their ‘son’ is denied a second term in office. The country is not new to such threats of disintegration. For those who are historically conscious, both the Northern and Western regions had at some point called for secession. It would only take the audacity of the late Ojukwu to make good such threats which of course failed in its entirety to solve the Nigerian Question. This open call of secession or outright appeal for disintegration has continued unabated and the loud tones could still be heard across the country. With the current political imbroglio brewing among the political elites, it remains to be seen what 2015 will look like.

The Nigeria state is gradually failing if the face-off between a former president and the incumbent is anything to go by. The face-off comes at a time when many Nigerians are deeply worried at the direction the country is going. The industrial strike embarked by most government owned institutions, the massive looting of the treasury, the harrowing insecurity problem, unemployment among others show gloomy signs that all is not well with the country. In fact, the country today faces an unprecedented socio-political and economic cancer which threatens its very foundation. However, despite these seeming problems, this writer believes secession or threats of disintegration are not the decisive solution we need both as a people and country. The event in South Sudan and elsewhere should serve as a lesson for those who think dividing Nigeria on either religious or ethnic lines would solve all the problems we face as a people. We are a people with so much anger and are wont to unleash it at the slightest provocation. Our nature is very unpredictable and unstable such that we do not have a collective consciousness that drives nationalism, patriotism and love for even thy neighbour. The fact that our thinking has been streamlined over time to pursue personal aggrandisement makes nonsense of whatever lesson the Good Samaritan story portrays. Our inability to pursue what binds us together and see the demerits of what divides us is perhaps the major reason we have failed to move forward and therefore, lost faith in the country. However, in as much as the country does not hold much to be desired and its leaders failing outright to fulfill their own part of the social contract, we must not crave as a people for disintegration or break-up of the country.

There is no denying the fact that a growing division, not among the different ethnic groupings within the country this time around, exist within ethnic groups of the same historical consciousness. The Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa-Fulani, Ijaw among others, have shown within themselves and overtime that they cannot put their house in order. The Yoruba for example, may have achieved some level of socio-political development over the years but when it comes to pursuing a common goal, you find them fanning the embers of discord with each sub-group claiming some unknown rights and privileges. The Igbo on the other hand have failed to realise that they hold so much hope for the betterment and uplift of the country, yet they revel in personal fame and wealth which to them is the hallmark of a fulfilled Igbo man. Until the Igbo take away their parochialism and embrace unity as a viable weapon for political mobilisation, they may never rise beyond the cocoon they have been placed by some elements within the country.

Despite the predictions that Nigeria will seize to exist in 2015, the country appears stronger than what many believe. In fact, Nigeria is better off being Nigeria than becoming a hopeless disintegrated entity which in the long run may end up being another Somalia. For those who believe a divided Nigeria is the very best option for the survival of the various ethnic groupings in the country should have a rethink. An Arewa, Biafra, Oduduwa or Ijaw state portends grave dangers for the people within such state structures. The history of power struggles, power grabs, ethnic tensions and lack of cohesion African states and its people are known for would once again creep into a divided Nigeria, tearing it further apart. It is the belief of this writer that no matter what Nigeria faces as a country today, it forms part of our developmental process for no nation great today was built in a day. Simply put, our fragile agglomeration suits us better than a divided one!

As the crisis in South Sudan continues, the lesson we must learn therefore is that disunity breeds nothing but further bloodshed. Those who call for division do not understand the pains and horror of war and think it is going to take a smooth transmission. Events in South Sudan paint this sad picture of a path we must not be willing to follow. The political elites must realise that the Nigerian state may not be able to hold itself for long if the massive disconnect between the ruler and ruled continues. It is therefore imperative that a workable solution is engineered in order to remove the pangs of mutual distrust that have remained part of us since the days of amalgamation. Those who fail to learn from history are condemned by it. South Sudan is a reminder and example of this apt truth.

Raheem Oluwafunminiyi wrote via creativitysells@gmail.com
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

Pope Denounces Discrimination, Violence Against Christians.


Image: Pope Denounces Discrimination, Violence Against Christians

VATICAN CITYPope Francis on Thursday denounced discrimination against Christians, including in countries where religious freedom is in theory guaranteed by law.

He delivered his traditional noon prayer and address to thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square on the day the Roman Catholic Church commemorates St. Stephen, its first martyr.

The 77-year-old Argentine pope asked the crowd for a moment of silent prayer for “Christians who are unjustly accused and are subjected to every type of violence.”

Francis, celebrating his first Christmas season as pope, said “limitations and discrimination” against Christians was taking place not only in countries that do not grant full religious freedom but also where “on paper, freedom and human rights are protected.”

“This injustice should be denounced and eliminated,” he said.

Francis: A Pope for Our Time, The Definitive Biography 

Francis did not name any countries but the Vatican has long urged Saudi Arabia, the site of Islam’s holiest places, to lift a ban on Christians worshiping in public.This year there have been a number of incidents of intolerance and attacks against minority Christians in Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Sudan, Nigeria, and other countries where their rights are guaranteed by law.

Francis, departing from his prepared text, said he was sure that Christians suffering from either discrimination or violence were “more numerous today than in he early times of the Church.”

In the past, the Vatican has also expressed concern over what former Pope Benedict called “sophisticated forms of hostility” against Christians in rich countries, such as restricting use of religious symbols in public places.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Source: Newsmax.com

UN Sending Thousands of Peacekeeping Troops to South Sudan.


The United Nations Security Council voted to bolster the UN’s peacekeeping mission in South Sudan and help end the worsening conflict that has created at least one mass grave and forced tens of thousands to flee their homes.

The council unanimously approved U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s request to add up to 5,500 soldiers and 423 police officers to the force of 7,900 uniformed personnel already authorized for the U.N. mission in South Sudan.

“Political dialogue is the only solution to this crisis,” Ban told the council after the vote. “Now is the time for South Sudan’s leaders to show their people and the world that they are committed to peace.”

The world’s newest country, founded in 2011, South Sudan is at risk of breaking apart because of fighting that erupted on Dec. 15 between supporters of President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, and his deposed vice president, Riek Machar of the rival Nuer group.

At least 500 people have been killed, with some 100,000 internally displaced and about 45,000 civilians seeking protection at U.N. camps in the country.

Troops and police from five other U.N. peacekeeping missions — in Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, and the Abyei and Darfur areas of Sudan — will be transferred to South Sudan, says the council’s resolution, which also authorizes Ban to generate “complementary force and asset.”

Ban on Monday recommended sending three attack helicopters, three utility helicopters and one Lockheed Martin Corp. C-130 Hercules transport plane.

West Texas Intermediate crude oil rose for the fourth time in five days as the conflict in South Sudan forced a partial shutdown of its oil production facilities. South Sudan exports about 220,000 barrels a day of crude, pumped mainly by China National Petroleum Corp., Malaysia’s Petroliam Nasional Bhd., and India’s Oil & Natural Gas Corp.

The Obama administration has stepped up preparations for a possible evacuation of U.S. personnel from South Sudan by positioning about 150 Marines in nearby Djibouti,  Benjamin Benson, a spokesman for U.S. Africa Command, said in an email Tuesday.

U.S. envoy Donald Booth met Monday with Kiir in the capital, Juba. The president expressed a willingness to begin talks with Machar “without preconditions, as soon as his counterpart was willing,” Booth said.

“The United States emphasizes the urgency of the situation and stands ready to support these efforts,” Booth said on a conference call.

Fighting broke out in South Sudan when gunmen attacked the presidential palace in Juba.

Machar, who is being hunted by government security forces, has demanded that Kiir step down for failing to unite the nation. Kiir fired Machar and the rest of his cabinet in July.

The two sides have agreed to an offer by neighboring Kenya to host peace talks, Kenyan Foreign Ministry Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho said Monday in Nairobi.

Rebel forces loyal to Machar said they have captured crude-producing Unity state as the government evacuated some oil workers and plans a partial shutdown of facilities.

Fighters led by General James Kong Chol seized Bentiu, the Unity state’s capital, and other parts of the northern region on Saturday, and have aligned themselves with Machar, Chol said in a phone interview Sunday.

It was the second state to fall to anti-government forces since Kiir’s administration lost control of Bor, the capital of Jonglei province, to a group headed by Gen. Peter Gatdet Yak last Wednesday. Chol and Yak previously headed government forces in the two states.

“We’re controlling the area of Unity state,” Chol said from Bentiu. “My government planned to kill me, and I have nowhere to go. I decided to join Riek Machar.”

The U.N. discovered a mass grave in Bentiu amid reports of at least two others in  Juba, Navi Pillay, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in an emailed statement Tuesday.

A U.N. official who visited the Bentiu site reported at least 75 bodies, Pillay’s spokeswoman Elizabeth Throssell said in an email Tuesday, adding that the U.N. is working to verify reports of two other graves in Juba.

Pillay also expressed serious concern over reports that several hundred civilians were arrested during house-to-house searches and from various hotels in Juba. There also were reports that hundreds of members of the South Sudan National Police Service were ordered to be disarmed and arrested at police stations across Juba, according to the U.N. statement.

South Sudan’s oil-producing Upper Nile state is also facing tensions after gunmen attacked government forces in Nasir county, Philip Aguer, a spokesman for the national army, said by phone Sunday. He said he had no further information.

Kiir said yesterday he agreed to a request by the six-nation Intergovernmental Authority on Development to help mediate an end to the crisis.

“We’re ready for any dialogue, but Dr. Machar must come to the table without any preconditions,” he told lawmakers in Juba. “Through dialogue I think we can resolve this misunderstanding very quickly.”

South Sudan seceded from neighboring Sudan in July 2011 and took three-quarters of the formerly united country’s oil output. The landlocked country’s oil provides more than 95 percent of government revenue.

South Sudan has sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest oil reserves after Nigeria and Angola, according to BP Plc data. Its low-sulfur crude is prized by Japanese buyers as a cleaner-burning fuel for power generation.

ONGC repatriated its 11 employees, and the company’s joint venture has shut down oilfields in South Sudan that were producing about 40,000 barrels per day, Finance Director S.P. Garg said in a phone interview.

Chol said there is “no interruption to oil” production in the country. “Oil is still flowing,” he said.

Petroleum Minister Stephen Dhieu Dau said on Sunday that the evacuation of oil workers from the country was temporary and oil output from Upper Nile was flowing normally.

U.N. Assistant Secretary-General Toby Lanzer estimated the country will need $1.1 billion of humanitarian aid in 2014 because 62,000 people were displaced in the past week’s violence.

Four U.S. service members suffered gunshot wounds on Saturday while on flights to evacuate Americans from Bor. The United Nations had previously sent helicopters to evacuate staff from South Sudan, and one was hit and forced to land on Friday, The Associated Press reported.

About 380 U.S. officials and private citizens have been evacuated to Nairobi and other locations, along with about 300 others, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in an emailed statement Sunday.

President Barack Obama sent a letter to Congress on Sunday saying he “may take further action to support the security of U.S. citizens, personnel, and property, including our embassy” in South Sudan.

© Copyright 2013 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

Source: Newsmax.com

US, UN to Send Troops to South Sudan.


The U.S. and the United Nations are preparing to make more peacekeeping troops available for the growing conflict in South Sudan, as President Salva Kiir opened the door to talks with his deposed vice president.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon asked the Security Council for 5,500 soldiers to add to the peacekeeping mission of 7,000 already there. The U.S. is positioning troops in the Horn of Africa region to assist in any additional evacuations in South Sudan, Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said yesterday.

At an emergency meeting yesterday in New York, all 15 members of the U.N. Security Council showed a “positive reaction”to Ban’s request for the troops, plus 423 police personnel, said Gerard Araud, French Ambassador to the United Nations and president of the council this month. The council may authorize the boost today, he said.

The military maneuvering underscored what Ban called the “mounting urgency”in South Sudan, where fighting that began Dec. 15 has killed at least 500 people. About 100,000 have been internally displaced and about 45,000 are seeking protection in and around at UN camps in the country, Araud said.

U.S. special envoy Donald Booth, who met yesterday with Kiir in the capital, Juba, said the president expressed a willingness to begin talks with former Vice President Riek Machar “without preconditions, as soon as his counterpart was willing.”

“The United States emphasizes the urgency of the situation and stands ready to support these efforts as necessary,” Booth told reporters on a conference call.

Rebel Leaders

Fighting broke out in South Sudan when gunmen attacked the presidential palace in Juba. The violence has been largely along ethnic lines, with Machar’s Nuer group pitted against the Dinka people of Kiir.

Machar, who is being hunted by government security forces, has demanded that Kiir step down for failing to unite the nation. Kiir fired Machar and the rest of his cabinet in July. The two sides agreed to an offer by neighboring Kenya to host peace talks, Kenyan Foreign Ministry Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho told reporters yesterday in Nairobi.

Booth said he also met with 11 members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement who are detained in Juba. He said they expressed a readiness “to play a constructive role in ending the crisis through peaceful political dialogue and national reconciliation.”

Rebel forces loyal to Machar said they captured crude-producing Unity state as the government evacuated some oil workers and plans a partial shutdown of facilities.

Oil-Area Tensions

Fighters led by General James Kong Chol seized Bentiu, the state capital, and other parts of the northern region on Dec. 21 and have aligned themselves with Machar, Chol said in a phone interview Dec. 22. It was the second state to fall to anti-government forces after Kiir’s administration lost control of Bor, the capital of Jonglei province, to a group headed by General Peter Gatdet Yak on Dec. 18. Chol and Yak previously headed government forces in the two states.

“We’re controlling the area of Unity state,” Chol said from Bentiu. “My government planned to kill me and I have nowhere to go. I decided to join Riek Machar.”

South Sudan’s oil-producing Upper Nile state is also facing tensions after gunmen attacked government forces in Nasir county, Philip Aguer, a spokesman for the national army, said by phone Dec. 22. He said he had no further information.

Kiir said yesterday he agreed to a request by the six- nation Intergovernmental Authority on Development to help mediate an end to the crisis.

Japanese Bullets

“We’re ready for any dialogue, but Dr. Machar must come to the table without any preconditions,” he told lawmakers in Juba. “Through dialogue I think we can resolve this misunderstanding very quickly.”

South Sudan seceded from neighboring Sudan in July 2011 and took three-quarters of the formerly united country’s oil output. The landlocked country exports all its crude, about 220,000 barrels a day, through pipelines across Sudan. The oil provides more than 95 percent of government revenue.

South Sudan has sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest oil reserves after Nigeria and Angola, according to BP Plc data. Its low- sulfur crude is prized by Japanese buyers as a cleaner-burning fuel for power generation. Japan will supply 10,000 bullets for UN peacekeepers in South Sudan, marking the first exemption under the Asian nation’s self-imposed curbs on arms exports, Kyodo News reported, without citing anyone.

South Sudan’s crude is pumped mainly by China National Petroleum Corp., Malaysia’s Petroliam Nasional Bhd. and India’s Oil & Natural Gas Corp.

‘No Interruption’

ONGC repatriated its 11 employees and the company’s joint venture has shut down oilfields in South Sudan that were producing about 40,000 barrels per day, Finance Director S.P. Garg said in a phone interview.

Chol said there is “no interruption to oil”production in the country. “Oil is still flowing,”he said.

Petroleum Minister Stephen Dhieu Dau said on Dec. 22 the evacuation of oil workers from the country is temporary and oil output from Upper Nile is flowing normally.

UN Assistant Secretary-General Toby Lanzer estimated the country will need $1.1 billion of humanitarian aid in 2014 after 62,000 people were displaced in the past week’s violence.

Four U.S. service members suffered gunshot wounds on Dec. 21 while on flights to evacuate Americans from Bor. The UN had previously sent helicopters to evacuate staff from South Sudan, and one was hit and forced to land on Dec. 20, according to the Associated Press.

Evacuation Requests

The U.S. military is positioning forces to respond to any requests from the State Department to evacuate personnel, said Warren, the Pentagon spokesman. He offered no details on troop numbers or whether any U.S. troops were entering South Sudan.

Three of the four U.S. troops injured earlier were stable enough to be taken to the military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, he said. The fourth will continue to receive care from U.S. forces in Nairobi, he said.

About 380 U.S. officials and private citizens have been evacuated to Nairobi and other locations, along with about 300 others, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in an emailed statement Dec. 22.

President Barack Obama sent a letter to Congress Dec. 22 saying he “may take further action to support the security of U.S. citizens, personnel, and property, including our embassy” in South Sudan.

© Copyright 2013 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.
Source: Newsmax.com

US Military Aircraft Hit in South Sudan, 4 Americans Wounded.


KAMPALA, Uganda  — Gunfire hit three U.S. military aircraft trying to evacuate American citizens in a remote region of South Sudan that on Saturday became a battle ground between the country’s military and renegade troops, officials said. Four U.S. service members were wounded in the attack in the same region where gunfire downed a U.N. helicopter the day before.

The U.S. military aircraft were about to land in Bor, the capital of the state of Jonglei and scene of some of the nation’s worst violence over the last week, when they were hit. The military said the four wounded troops were in stable condition.
The U.S. military said three CV-22 Ospreys — the kind of aircraft that can fly like a helicopter and plane — were “participating in a mission to evacuate American citizens in Bor.” A South Sudan official said violence against civilians there has resulted in bodies “sprinkled all over town.”

“After receiving fire from the ground while approaching the site, the aircraft diverted to an airfield outside the country and aborted the mission,” the military’s Africa Command said in a statement.

The military initially said three service members were injured in the incident.

The Associated Press citing unnamed sources reported that the aircraft were heading to Bor, the capital of the state of Jonglei and scene of some of the nation’s worst violence over the last week. One of the wounded service members was reported to be in critical condition.

The Associated Press reported that after the aircraft took incoming fire, they turned around and headed to Kampala, Uganda. From there the service members flew on to Nairobi, Kenya for medical treatment.

Both officials demanded anonymity to share information not yet made public. Both officials work in East Africa and are in a position to know the information, the news service said.

The U.S. aircraft were hit one day after small arms fire downed a U.N. helicopter in the same state.

Rob McKee, operations manager for Warrior Security, a South Sudan security company, said the U.N. helicopter made an emergency landing while trying to evacuate personnel from a base in Yuai, Jonglei state. A second official who insisted on anonymity because the information hasn’t been released said the helicopter was abandoned and remains unable to fly. No injuries were reported.

About 45 U.S. troops have been deployed to South Sudan to protect American personnel and the embassy. Fighting in South Sudan has claimed as many as 500 lives and a rebel force linked to deposed Vice President Riek Machar captured Bor, the capital of Jonglei state, earlier this week.

The conflict threatens to drag the world’s newest country into an ethnic civil war just two years after it won independence from Sudan with strong support from successive U.S. administrations.

Hundreds of people have been killed in the fighting that pits loyalists of President Salva Kiir, of the Dinka ethnic group, against those of Machar, a Nuer who was sacked in July and is accused by the government of trying to seize power.
Fighting that spread from the capital, Juba, has now reached vital oilfields and the government said a senior army commander had defected to Machar in the oil-producing Unity State.
After meetings with African mediators on Friday, Kiir’s government said on its Twitter feed that it was willing to hold talks with any rebel group. The United States is also sending an envoy to help with talks.
South Sudan’s foreign minister, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, told Reuters the African mediators had now been given the go-ahead to meet with Kiir’s rivals, including Machar and his allies. They were due to make contact on Saturday.
United Nations staff said hundreds of people have been killed across the country the size of France this week and 35,000 civilians are sheltering at their bases.
Information Minister Michael Makuei told Reuters that an army divisional commander in Unity State, John Koang, had defected and joined Machar, who had named him the governor of the state.
The United Nations said on Friday at least 11 people from the ethnic Dinka group had been killed during an attack by thousands of armed youths from another ethnic group on a U.N. peacekeeping base in Jonglei state. Two Indian peacekeepers died.

© 2013 NewsmaxWorld. All rights reserved.
By Newsmax Wires

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