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World News in Brief: Rights chief calls for calm in Comoros, DR Congo update, northern Ethiopia beset by ‘multiple crises’

Incumbent President of the island archipelago off the east African coast, Azali Assoumani, was re-elected for a fourth term.  

However, the turnout was reportedly only 16 per cent and opposition parties denounced the elections as “fraudulent”, according to media reports.

In a statement released by his office (OHCHR) on Wednesday, Volker Türk called on the authorities to ensure the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

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He also urged demonstrators not to resort to violence, after reports of pillaging in capital Moroni on Tuesday and incidents of arson against several public buildings in the islands of Moheli and Anjouan on election day.

“As post-electoral tensions mount, it is paramount that the authorities ensure a safe environment, where all Comorians, including members of the political opposition, can freely express their views and exercise their right to peaceful assembly,” he said.

According to OHCHR, Sunday’s polls took place following weeks of curtailed civic and democratic space, with reports of arbitrary detention and allegations of enforced disappearance of detainees.  

A de facto ban on peaceful demonstrations and public political gatherings has been in place since 2019.  

The High Commissioner also urged the Government to steer the country towards democracy.

“A new chapter should begin for all the Comorians; one that is based on pluralism, freedom of expression, justice and accountability,” he said.

“Otherwise, democracy will never be fulfilled.”

Inflation rises hit international investment, warns UNCTAD

Foreign direct investment, or FDI, is a crucial part of the global economy – particularly emerging economies – and last year they saw foreign funding shrink by no less than nine per cent, to $841 billion, UN data released on Wednesday showed.

According to UN trade and development body UNCTAD, developing Asian economies took an even bigger hit, their FDI falling 12 per cent.

China also reported “a rare decline” of six per cent less investment from overseas partners.

African countries’ FDI fell one per cent in 2023 while Central America bucked the trend by maintaining stable foreign direct investment, UNCTAD’s latest Global Investment Trends Monitor showed.

Data also indicated a sharp upswing in foreign direct investment in Luxembourg and the Netherlands that contributed to a three per rise in global foreign direct investment last year, to $1.37 trillion.

But without Luxembourg and the Netherlands, investment in the other European Union countries was down by 23 per cent.

UNCTAD said that other developed countries saw foreign investment stagnate last year with “zero growth” in North America.

A ship passes through a section of the Panama Canal, one of the busiest trading routes in the world.
UN News/Jing Zhang

A ship passes through a section of the Panama Canal, one of the busiest trading routes in the world.

DR Congo: Peacekeepers deploy to protect civilians in Ituri

Peacekeepers have been responding to renewed violence against civilians in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), deploying patrols and helping local leaders free five people abducted by militia in Ituri province.

That is according to UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric, briefing reporters in New York on Wednesday.

He said ‘blue helmets’ serving with the UN mission MONUSCO had responded to “alerts and information received over the past few days” and deployed a patrol close to Djugu territory to protect civilians.

Peacekeepers also supported local leaders who negotiated the release of five people abducted by CODECO militia, a loose association of political and religious rebel groups.  

“The Mission has also intervened in response to an attack against a position for the Congolese armed forces (FARDC) in Tcha”, Mr. Dujarric continued.

“Peacekeepers are also continuing to protect civilians who sought refuge close to a MONUSCO temporary base in the Drodo area in Ituri.”

He added that peacekeepers had been deployed last week in response to clashes between CODECO and Zaire militia but “the situation is now reported calm.”

MONUSCO is due to withdraw completely from DRC by the end of 2024 but the UN is determined to stay and provide support to Congolese in need in the long-term, after the mission’s withdrawal.  

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‘Overlapping crises’ see humanitarian conditions worsen in northern Ethiopia

The UN aid coordination office OCHA is concerned over the deteriorating humanitarian situation in northern Ethiopia, Mr. Dujarric said on Wednesday.

In drought-affected regions including Afar, Amhara, Tigray, and Oromia, “multiple and often overlapping crises have severely weakened people’s ability to cope with climate shocks such as drought – that leaves millions of people vulnerable to falling even further into severe need and destitution”, the UN Spokesperson added.  

He said the UN and partners were supporting Government efforts in “a very challenging operating environment”, with extremely limited funding, while there are “active hostilities” in Amhara and Oromia.  

“However, our humanitarian colleagues stress the need to scale up the response to support four million people in these regions with food aid, nutrition, water and sanitation as well as health services.”

OCHA reports that the main issue is lack of funding and insecurity.

Last year, between January and November, the UN and partners reached more than 12 million people with aid although the 2023 $4 billion Humanitarian Response Plan for Ethiopia was just one third funded, receiving $1.33 billion.

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