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Friday
Oct112013

IRT September news update

Thank you to everyone for supporting IRT's Participatory Learning and Action programmes in Uganda

September has been an exciting and busy month for International Refugee Trust. We have officially launched our new Participatory Learning and Action (PLA) programmes and welcomed to the team Katie, our new Fundraising and Digital Engagement Executive.

For the past year, International Refugee Trust has been working with two local Ugandan organisations – PARUDA and OCA – to develop two new programmes based on PLA to support rural subsistence farmers. The programmes’ aim is to get the farmers and their families’ lives back on track through a series of highly participatory training sessions. Their training is centred on four areas: sustainable agriculture, hygiene and sanitation, gender equity and savings and credit. We are very excited about these programmes because their approach is radically different from traditional approaches to international development. For more information on PLA, you can look at our page dedicated to Participatory Learning and Action. We will also be posting regular updates from the villagers on the blog and via social media so ‘watch this space’.

To officially launch Participatory Learning and Action and to say a huge thank you to those donors who have helped support the initial start-up of the PLA programmes, we held a small gathering on the evening of 17th September. The event was a great success and we are very grateful to everyone at Odgers Berndtson for hosting; Duval-Leroy for providing the champagne and  to our trustee Hannah Read for helping to organise it.

Thank you to everyone at the The Funding Network<>

On the 26th, we were given the amazing opportunity to present to The Funding Network – an organisation that ‘enables individuals to join together to crowdfund social change projects’. This was the first time we have presented PLA to a new group of potential supporters and we got a great response. Thanks to the generosity of everyone who attended, we raised 10k! The money donated will be going to fund pit latrines in Lira, Uganda supporting the Obaya Community Association.

We want to give a huge thank you to everyone who gave, to the Funding Network and Rathbone Greenbank Investments for hosting, and to our trustee Phillida Purvis who nominated us. Also, congratulations to the other charities – Street Doctors, Eikon and Vitality. It was great meeting all of you and hearing about your work.

 

Katie Kurilecz joins IRT as their new Fundraising and Digital Engagement ExecutiveWith September also came a breath of fresh air to IRT, as we welcomed Katie Kurilecz to the team as our new Fundraising and Digital Engagement Executive. She will be working with our corporate partners and managing our digital strategy, including relaunching the website, so again ‘watch this space’.

 

 

 

This has been an exciting month for International Refugee Trust and it is only the beginning! We are very excited about all we have planned – implementing and expanding our PLA-based programmes, launching our new online and social media strategy and unveiling our new volunteering and fundraising opportunities. We will be keeping you up-to-date on all the progress, so come back to the blog, ‘like’ us on Facebook and or follow us on Twitter

 

Tuesday
Jul232013

Investigative committee established to end accusations between Sudan and South Sudan

Students sitting at new desks at the Yambio Kindergarten in South Sudan, which IRT helps support. The threat by the Sudanese government to cut oil flow from South Sudan would have negative economic ramifications for communities throughout the country.

Yesterday, the African Union and the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) launched an investigative committee to get to the bottom of accusations by the Sudanese and South Sudanese governments, that each state was backing rebels operating against the other. 

The committee (known as the Ad Hoc Investigative Mechanism or AIM) consists of three senior military officers who will head to Khartoum and then on to Juba with the hope to "resolve the longstanding problem."  The team has mainly been formed to deal with allegations from both sides that each state has supported rebel movements which planned to either overthrow the government or create mayhem and destruction amongst civilians.

Khartoum says that the rebel groups of Darfur, Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains are being backed by the South Sudanese government, whereas Juba states that the ongoing rebellion by David Yau Yau in Jonglei is being supported by Sudanese authorities. This has led to great mistrust on both sides which has jeopardized the various cooperation agreements over the past year to diffuse tensions. 

Currently, the Sudanese government in Khartoum has decided to stop South Sudanese oil flow (starting on August 7th) through its pipeline as it claims Juba broke its deal and is cooperating with rebel forces. This would be detrimental for both states and the AU and IGAD urged Khartoum to reconsider stating it would,"cause irreparable damage to the integrity of the pipeline and adversely affect the economies of both states." 

Whereas the Sudanese government recognised the arrival of the AIM committee, their arrival was not widely broadcasted, while the Foreign Minister in Juba welcomed the investigative committee and assured that his government will "give them whatever support required from us...to accomplish their task." The investigation is said to last for six weeks and, hopefully, will resolve allegations on both sides, so that Sudan will not carry out its plan to cut off oil flow from South Sudan. 

Further reading:

AU and IGAD launch probe on South- South Sudan alleged support to rebel groups- Sudan Tribune 

Launch of the Investigative Team on the Relations between Sudan and South Sudan- African Union 

Friday
Jul192013

Ollie's Shop

Logo for Ollie's online store

At just fifteen, Ollie Forsyth has already launched two successful businesses. His first, and most successful, is his online store, Ollie's Shop, which sells a lovely and inexpensive selection of jewellery and leather gifts, all ranging from £5-£35. The idea for his store started when he saw his history teacher wearing a fun, friendship bracelet and he realised that  they could be made in virtually any colour. Soon his friends and family were all buying his bracelets and cuff links. Since then, Ollie has expanded his selection of stock and turned over £20,000 last Christmas!

Ollie is also committed to helping local charities, and has generously agreed to help support the work of IRT by giving us a percentage of the orders that cite IRT's 'coupon code' (CF10) at the checkout section of the online store. If the buyer cites our code, IRT will get a percentage of the proceeds and the buyer will get a discount on their purchase.

Ollie hopes to raise £1,000,000 for charity by 2024, and has made £3,500 so far. Please help support Ollie and IRT by browsing his wonderful online shop (www.ollieshop.co.uk). His products make wonderful gifts for family and friends and his jewellery can be worn for any occasion.

Get an idea of what you can buy from the images below and visit the Northampton Chronicle and Echo article for more information on this budding businessman. 

  Funky leather beltsUnique red VW campervan washbags!

Beautiful double wrap crystal bracelets!

Fun tiger moth plane cufflinks!

Tuesday
Jul162013

Congolese refugees flee to Western Uganda 

Over 66,000 Congolese have fled to western Uganda to escape rebel attacks. Photo credit: AFP

Last week, Ugandan armed group the Allied Democratic Forces attacked Kamango town in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).  Floods of Congolese civilians, with numbers estimating close to 66,000, arrived in western Uganda to seek refuge.  The numbers are staggering with 13,000 refugees reaching Bubandi (sub-county in western Uganda's Bundibugyo district) on the first day of the fighting alone.

The Allied Democratic Forces are a Ugandan Islamist group, made up of Ugandans and Congolese rebels, who oppose the current Ugandan government. The group was formed in western Uganda but now has bases and operations in the DRC as well. The group was thought to have been mainly abolished in 2004, but the group seems to have rejuvenated and is operating mainly around the Ruwenzori Mountains of DRC's North Kivu province.

The sudden influx of people has caught western Uganda unprepared as UNHCR representative, Mohammed Adar, said:

“This is an extraordinarily swift and concerning influx of refugees into an area with very limited preparedness to extend humanitarian assistance to such a large number of people.”

That being said, humanitarian aid agencies and local authorities are hard at work to assist the Congolese population. According to Ugandan newspaper the Daily Monitor, families were arriving in Uganda carrying mattresses, chickens, pots and pans. UNHCR and the Office of the Prime Minister have been providing plastic sheets for shelters, plates, cups, and latrine kits as well as the transportation of refugees from close to the border to a new location 23 kilometers from DRC. The World Food Programme, Ugandan Red Cross and UNICEF are also providing emergency relief in the form of hot meals and water. New arrivals are temporarily  staying in five primary schools and other sites in Bundibugyo or with members of the local community. 

Since the first refugees arrived last week, the number of new arrivals has slowed dramatically and some refugees are actually starting to return to the DRC, despite warnings of insecurity still in the region. It is speculated that this attack by the Allied Democratic Forces will give the Ugandan government an excuse to enter the DRC in hopes of squashing the rebel forces, but Kinshasa government has been reluctant for that to happen, due to historical misconduct of the Ugandan army in the DRC. It will be interesting to see what develops in the coming weeks and, hopefully, the situation will improve so the Congolese currently residing in Uganda will be able to safely return home. 

Further reading:

Congo-Kinshasa: UNHCR rushes aid as 66,000 Congolese refugees stream into western Uganda- All Africa 

Congolese flee as ADF attacks town -Daily Monitor

Congolese fleeing to Uganda top 55,000 -Daily Monitor

DRC refugees start returning home - Daily Monitor 

ADF operating with more than 1,500 fighters - Daily Monitor 


Tuesday
Jul092013

Independence Day in South Sudan 

Today marks the second year anniversary of South Sudan's independence on 9 July 2011. Despite the many problems facing the new nation, people flocked to the capital to celebrate their second year of independence as the clocks struck midnight.People celebrate as the clock strikes midnight in South Sudan on July 9, 2013. Photo: AFP

Due to the high numbers in Juba for the festivities and tribal fighting which has made it difficult for authorities to maintain peace, security is tight, with all roads leading to the capital blocked and thousands of troops deployed and patrolling around the city at regular intervals.

A budget of $10 million has been set aside for the occasion and it is confirmed that seven heads of state will be in attendance for the festivities including Uganda's President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, Kenya'sUhuru Kenyatta,  Rwanda’s Paul Kigame, Somalia’s Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, and Botswana’s Ian Khama. Although, Sudan's government did not respond to the invitation, the Juba government hopes an official from Sudan will also be represented at the celebrations despite recent tensions between the two nations over oil, security and border issues. Sudan confirmed two days ago that the Vice-President Ali Osman Taha will be in attendance. 

A young boy holding the South Sudan flag at celebrations last year

 The government has also agreed to take charge of public transport so that the general public can arrive at the venue for free and take part in the celebrations. However, the festivities of the day may be slightly overshadowed by seemingly divided government. After Vice-President Riek Machar's came public with his decision to run against current incumbent President Salva Kiir, there has been obvious tension amongst the South Sudan government.  Even the ruling party's general secretary, Pagan Amum, said that the party had "lost vision and direction."  

As well as party tensions, South Sudan was placed fourth on a think tank's annual list of 'failed' states, which does not place the current SPLM (Sudan People's Liberation Movement) in a favourable light, and is not a great endorsement for either Kirr or Machar. As indicated in the previous blog the government seems to have struggled with providing basic social welfare for many of its citizens. However, it can be argued that South Sudan, a fledgling nation of just two years, should not be compared against nations that had their independence thirty to fifty years ago. 

Man with his fainted painted with the colours of South Sudan on Independence day two years ago. Photo: Goran Tomasevic/REUTERS

Not all is doom and gloom for South Sudan and as Amnesty International expert Khairunissa Dhala reports:

"The past two years have also seen civil society in South Sudan strengthen and grow, giving South Sudan’s citizens a voice to represent them and make demands of their government." 

There is obviously progress to be made, but South Sudan can celebrate how far it has come since it gained independence two years ago.  Dhala also writes:

"Despite all the challenges faced in South Sudan, people are still very committed to building a better life for themselves and their communities. Many outsiders visiting South Sudan benefit from that powerful sense of energy."

Therefore, even despite the challenges that lie ahead, it seems the people of South Sudan are dedicated to improving the status quo and disproving claims that South Sudan is a failing state. 

 

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