John Kerry


$2.4 billion raised for Syria crisis does not allay concerns | 

Mideast Lebanon Syria Refugee Students
A Syrian teacher, left, teaches on the first day of classes at a private school built for Syrian refugees in the southern port city of Sidon, Lebanon.
AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari

International donors and charities pledged a total of $2.4 billion in aid for the Syrian crisis. It is only a fraction of the $6.5 billion needed to respond to the largest UN appeal ever.

A two-day conference in Kuwait brought together charities, donors and other global actors to rally support for the humanitarian crisis in and around Syria. The first day saw charities and NGOs pledge $400 million in aid. Kuwait led the way on Wednesday by pledging $500 million.

Roughly 70% of the $1.5 billion pledged in a similar conference last year has materialized to date. There is little reason to be confident that all of the money promised this week will be disbursed.

The three year old crisis has displaced an estimated 9 million people. An international response to the humanitarian problems caused by the fighting in Syria has struggled to meet increasing needs. Neighboring countries who are hosting the more than 4 million refugees are struggling to support all the incoming people.

“No country, no people should face hardship or calamity for helping Syrians in need. It is vital for this region and our world that the burden is shared. Let us reward the compassion of Syria’s neighbors with generosity and solidarity,” said UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon.

The situation is getting harder.
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DR Congo: M23 rebels lay down guns, army targets FDLR | 

M23 rebels on patrol.
M23 rebels on patrol.

The M23 rebel group that has led a twenty-month insurgency in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo waved the white flag today. An announcement Tuesday morning that the rebels gave up came in the wake of a Congolese army campaign that beat back the group over the weekend.

“The chief of staff and the commanders of all major units are requested to prepare troops for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration on terms to be agreed with the government of Congo.”

Rebels will put down arms in order to accomplish, “purely political means,” solutions to the root problems that gave rise to the rebellion said M23 leader Bertrand Bisimwa in a statement. The Tutsi group opposes the existence of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a militia made up of ethnic Hutus, that group that carried out the Rwandan genocide, in eastern Congo.

The Congolese army already says it move to deal with the FDLR. The M23 was at the top of the list for the army’s concerns and it is now moving on to the next group, said government spokesman Lambert Mende. He said an attack is “imminent” against the FDLR.

“There is no more place in our country for any irregular group,” he said referring to the FDLR. “We are going to get on with disarming them.”

Only a year earlier the M23 rebels marched, without resistance, into the main eastern city of Goma before agreeing to retreat. The destabilizing group garnered greater international attention when a United Nations report said that the Rwandan military was providing support to the rebels. Continue reading

Why is the red line at chemical weapons? | 

Red Line

US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke passionately about the abhorrent act of Syrian forces deploying chemical weapons to kill hundreds of people last week.

“What we saw in Syria last week should shock the conscience of the world. It defies any code of morality,” said Kerry.

“Let me be clear: The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders, by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity.”

Analysts suggest that Kerry’s remarks represent the US taking yet another step closer to intervention in Syria’s civil war. Lawmakers like Senator John McCain are pushing hard for the Obama Administration to take a more active role. The president’s invocation of a red line on the issue of chemical weapons has been a source of debate and anger for those supporting US action in Syria.
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Controversy as Mugabe wins Zimbabwe presidential polls again | 

Zimbabweans line up near a polling station in Harare.
Zimbabweans line up near a polling station in Harare.
Alexander Joe

Zimbabwe’s 89 year-old President Robert Mugabe extended his time in office to a seventh term. The man who has ruled since 1980 defeated his opponent and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai by carrying 61% of the vote.

Western nations raised concerns about the validity of the elections that were held on July 31. Accusations of rigging by observers and Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party cast a shadow over the election.

“What they have simply done is to plunge Zimbabwe into a political, constitutional governance issue, because they do not have the people, they do not have the legitimacy and they do not have the capacity of running this government,” said outgoing finance minister and MDC Secretary-General Tendai Biti.
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Kerry Boldly Defends Status Quo on Foreign Aid | 

John Kerry has only held the office of US Secretary of State for a few weeks but has already made it known that foreign aid is one of his priorities.

Kerry says he will fight to maintain the budget of USAID and make the argument for its benefits. Hillary Clinton said much the same when she first came on board, emphasizing that the Obama Administration will build upon and expand upon the government’s established leadership in many areas of foreign aid, and especially in global health.

Didn’t happen. So what might Kerry’s rhetoric mean in reality for foreign aid?

One of the first acts by the nation’s new Secretary of State was to write a letter to Congresswoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) to warn about consequences to foreign aid and diplomacy if budget cuts are enacted through sequestration.

John Kerry
Sec State John Kerry  Credit

If a deal is not reached in Congress, the State Department and USAID will see a $2.6 billion across-the-board cut in their collective budget. “Cuts of this magnitude would seriously impair our ability to execute our vital missions of national security, diplomacy and development,” writes Kerry.

He estimates that sequestration would cost global health programs $400 million and humanitarian assistance $200 million. Continue reading