Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Afghanistan: Terrorist activities kills more civilians than any other military action

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has spoken out against the use of suicide bombings and other terrorist activities, which it says kills more civilians than any other military action.

The reaction came after last Thursday’s bomb blast in Logar province which killed more than 20 people, including children on their way to school. UNAMA condemned the “barbaric” attack, the latest in a string of violence targeted at aid organizations.

“The United Nations in Afghanistan has long made clear its deep concern about the use of suicide bombs and terrorist acts in populated areas,” Nazifullah Salarzai, a spokesperson for the Mission told a news conference in Kabul today.

“These are resulting in more civilian casualties in Afghanistan than any other military tactic, and must stop. The civilian population of this country has a right to be safe from violence and threats.”

The head of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has also spoken out against last week’s attack, stressing that the children of Afghanistan, like children everywhere, have a right to be protected from violence and to develop free of threats, intimidations and violent attacks.

“Even where they do not suffer directly from the violence, when children are not allowed to feel safe at school or travelling to school, their education and their prospects suffer, and the futures of their families and their communities are undermined,” said Ann M. Veneman.

UNICEF has recorded 98 school incidents in the period from 1 May until 24 June 2009, including direct attacks by small arms and rockets, arson, and threats. Ms. Veneman said these attacks “pull the country backwards and threaten the significant advances that have been made in education and child health in recent years.”

Recent violence has also targeted those trying to help the fledgling democracy rebuild. Last month three national staff members of a local non-governmental organization (NGO) were killed when the vehicle they were travelling in was destroyed by a roadside bomb in Jawzjan province. In addition, the office of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Kunduz was attacked in early June with a rocket-propelled grenade having been fired at the compound.

The ongoing violence is of particular concern as the country gears up for presidential elections slated for 20 August. The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA, Kai Eide, has highlighted the critical importance of the upcoming polls, noting that it is about more than choosing the country’s future leaders.

“After years of conflict and developments that have not met Afghans’ expectations, it is important to strengthen peoples’ confidence in the democratic processes, and to strengthen Afghanistan’s democratic institutions. It is about the legitimacy of leadership,” he stated.

The UN has called on all candidates to campaign with dignity and avoid language that could incite violence, and on government officials and institutions to avoid interference during all phase of the election process.

It has also appealed to all voters to take part in the polls, stressing that such participation is essential to the legitimacy of the election results.
Published by Mike Hitchen,
Putting principles before profits