News from Kenya, Saudi Arabia and Australia

Tuesday's World Events   —   Posted on October 22, 2013

KENYA – Government to microchip all rhinos’ horns to beat poachers

rhino

A rhino at Nairobi’s National Park

Nairobi | Kenya will place microchips in the horn of every rhino in the country in a bid to stamp out a surge in poaching the threatened animals, wildlife officials said Wednesday (October 16).

“Poachers are getting more sophisticated in their approach,” Paul Udoto, spokesman for the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), told AFP.

“So it is vital that conservation efforts also follow and embrace the use of more sophisticated technology to counter the killing of wildlife.”

Kenya has just over 1,000 rhino, and the tiny chips will be inserted and hidden in the horn, which is made of keratin, the same material as fingernails or hardened hair.

image1114The World Wildlife Fund donated the chips as well as five scanners at a cost of $15,000, although tracking the rhino to dart them and fit the device will cost considerably more.

However, it will boost the ability of police to prosecute poachers or traffickers, allowing for all animals to be traced and providing potential vital information on poaching and smuggling chains.

“Investigators will be able to link any poaching case to a recovered or confiscated horn, and this forms crucial evidence in court, contributing towards the prosecution’s ability to push for sentencing of a suspected rhino criminal,” KWS said in a statement.

SAUDI ARABIA – Government’s rejection stuns UN Security Council

The Saudi foreign minister Prince Saud al Faisal, seated, at last month’s meeting of six foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council in Jidda, Saudi Arabia, where they discussed measures to aid Syrian rebels.( AFP/Getty September 10, 2013)

UNITED NATIONS (United States) | Saudi Arabia…rejected a UN Security Council seat Friday, accusing the UN body of “double standards” over the Syria war and other trouble spots in an unprecedented diplomatic broadside.

The Saudi snub sparked disarray at the Security Council. The oil-rich Gulf monarchy had only won the seat on Thursday at a UN General Assembly election.

Russia criticized the Saudis’ “strange” decision but the…kingdom got a more understanding reaction from its western allies.

UN leader Ban Ki-moon said Saudi Arabia did not immediately send notification of its decision to reject the term due to start on January 1. But senior UN envoys said they did not expect the Saudi government to reverse the decision, which was announced in an outspoken foreign ministry statement.

“Work mechanisms and double-standards on the Security Council prevent it from carrying out its duties and assuming its responsibilities in keeping world peace,” the ministry said. Saudi Arabia “has no other option but to turn down Security Council membership until it is reformed and given the means to accomplish its duties and assume its responsiblities in preserving the world’s peace and security.”

The government said “allowing the ruling regime in Syria to kill and burn its people” with chemical weapons is “irrefutable evidence and proof of the inability of the Security Council to carry out its duties and responsibilities.”

Diplomats and analysts said the Saudi gesture was mainly directed at the United States, [since President Obama] first threatened a military strike against Syria then backed down and which has started a dialogue with Riyadh’s arch-foe Iran.

“It is hard not to think that Riyadh’s decision reflects an overall cooling of the US-Saudi relationship,” Charles Dunbar, a professor at Boston University and former US ambassador in the Middle East and UN envoy on the Western Sahara conflict.

“Syria and Iran would seem to be the two most prominent reasons for the downturn in relations,” he added.

“It is a cry of exasperation with Washington,” said a UN diplomat.

The United States shrugged off the decision by its key ally. “That’s a decision they have to make, of course,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. “I understand different countries will have different responses, but we’ll continue to work with them on issues that we share of mutual concern.”

Saudi Arabia was one of five nations elected by the UN General Assembly to a two-year Security Council term. The others were Chad, Chile, Lithuania and Nigeria. All had stood unopposed.

No country has ever won a council seat and then refused to take it up.

Saudi Arabia’s UN ambassador, Abdullah Al-Mouallimi, gave several press interviews hailing the election after the result was announced.

image1113

But the celebrations had barely finished when the Saudi foreign ministry announced the withdrawal.

Diplomats highlighted how Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal refused to speak or even hand out a copy of his speech at the UN General Assembly in September, in a show of anger over the international handling of the Syria conflict.

If Saudi Arabia maintains its stance, the Asia-Pacific group of nations would have to propose a new candidate for the UN General Assembly to vote on.

Amid the diplomatic disarray, the decision again highlighted international divisions over the Syria conflict.

The Security Council passed its first resolution on the civil war in September, when it ordered the destruction of President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons.

Russia and China have vetoed three other western-backed resolutions seeking to put pressure on Assad over the conflict, which the UN says has left more than 100,000 dead.

The Russian foreign ministry sharply criticized Saudi Arabia’s “strange” argument on the council’s record on Syria.

Russia and Saudi Arabia have a traditionally testy relationship made worse by the Russian government’s support for Syria’s ruler Bashar Assad while Saudi Arabia is a major backer of opposition rebels.

“We are surprised by Saudi Arabia’s unprecedented decision,” said a Russian foreign ministry statement. “In this way, Saudi Arabia has excluded itself from collective work within the Security Council to support international peace and security.” It added: “The kingdom’s arguments arouse bewilderment, and the criticism of the UN Security Council in the context of the Syrian conflict is particularly strange.”

AUSTRALIA – Queensland creates ‘bikies-only’ prison to deal with warring motorbike gangs

image1111The Australian state of Queensland is creating a special prison to house gang members, banning them from owning tattoo parlors and crushing their motorcycles under the world’s toughest anti-gang measures.

Facing a turf war between rival gangs which has spilt into bombings, shootings and street brawls across the country, the state of Queensland has introduced new measures that include a prison for motorcycle gang members, or “bikies,” where inmates are kept in cells for 23 hours a day.

The state is also introducing a ban on gang members owning tattoo parlors and bans on some gang members wearing their emblems. Other states are planning to deport foreign gang members who have rushed to Australia to join the warring sides.

The ongoing battle has involved a fight between rival Australian and international gangs, with the Hells Angels reportedly confronting a local gang called the Finks, which has come under the wing of United States-based Mongols. Other gangs include the Bandidos, the Nomads, the Rebels, Notorious and the Comancheros. The gangs tend to have clubhouses and ride around in large groups but have increasingly become involved in crime and the drug trade.

The dispute erupted late last month with a violent street brawl involving dozens of bikies on the Gold Coast, a popular beachside tourist strip in Queensland.

image1112The brawl raised fears about the impact on tourism and prompted the state government to launch drastic measures to stem the violence, including its new special prison near the city of Brisbane. The prison will not have a gym or television and the inmates will be subject to regular searches and drug tests.

The state’s police chief, Brett Pointing, said the recent violence had “terrified” the public.  “We’re seeing a lot of this very, very violent gang activity spilling out onto the streets, spilling out into public places – and it terrifies the public,” he said.

“Clubs are actively recruiting at the moment at an alarming rate.  The leadership of these clubs are younger, more aggressive, certainly more territorial.”

[Newly elected Prime Minister] Tony Abbott’s government has pledged federal support and the army has been called in to assist with arrests in the state of Victoria.

Queensland’s war on the gangs prompted fears its parliament could come under attack and led to the gates of parliament house being locked and public tours being suspended.

“Just as we’re going to crush the criminal motorcycle gang enterprises, we’re going to crush the bikes,” said the state’s attorney general, Jarrod Bleijie.

(The news briefs above are from wire reports and staff reports posted at YahooNews (Agence France-Presse) on Oct. 16 and 18 and London’s Daily Telegraph on Oct. 15)

Questions

1. For each of the 3 countries, provide the following information:

a) capital:

b) location/the countries that share its borders:

c) the religious breakdown of the population:

d) the type of government:
e) the chief of state (and head of government if different) [If monarch or dictator, since what date has he/she ruled? – include name of heir apparent for monarch]:

f) the population:

[Find the answers at the CIA World FactBook website. For each country, answers can be found under the “Geography” “People” and “Government” headings.  Go to worldatlas.com for maps and a list of continents.]

NOTE: Before answering the questions below, read the info under “Background.” 

2. For KENYA:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) Why is there a growing black market for rhino horns?

3. For SAUDI ARABIA:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) Consider Russia’s and China’s roles in taking any action on Syria. What part have these two permanent members of the Security Council played in Syria?

4. For AUSTRALIA:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) What other measures are officials taking against biker gangs in Australia?
c) Do you think officials in Queensland have found the best solution for the biker gang crisis? Explain your answer.


Free Answers — Sign-up here to receive a weekly email with answers.

Background

KENYA

  • Poaching has risen sharply in Africa in recent years. Rhinos are not the only animals targeted; whole elephant herds have been massacred for their ivory.
  • The lucrative Asian black market for rhino horn has driven a boom in poaching across Africa.
  • Asian consumers falsely believe the horns have powerful healing properties.
  • In August, poachers shot dead a white rhino in Nairobi’s national park, a brazen raid in one of the best guarded sites in Kenya.
  • Simply chopping the horn off the rhino has limited impact, Udoto explained.
  • “The horn grows back… and we’ve so sadly found that poachers can kill a rhino at first sight and only then find that its horn has been removed,” he said. (from the article above)

From a CNN news report on Oct. 21:

  • Poaching of the rhino horn is a lucrative industry, with much of the loot sold to the affluent in Asia, particularly China and Vietnam. In those countries, some believe the horns can cure a series of ills, including cancer and hangovers, and can boost virility.
  • A kilogram fetches about $20,000, according to a report by Moses Montesh, a criminology professor at the University of South Africa. A single horn weighs about  22 pounds.
  • Rhino poaching soared by 43% between 2011 and 2012, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, a worldwide network.
  • Last year alone, about 745 rhinos were poached throughout Africa — the highest number in two decades. Of those, a record 668 rhinos were killed in South Africa alone.
  • In South Africa, officials are dying rhino horns pink and tingeing them with nonlethal chemicals to discourage consumers from buying them.
  • Organized crime syndicates are using military-grade helicopters, night-vision equipment and guns fitted with silencers, taking rhino poaching to a whole new level and leaving conservationists struggling to keep up.
  • Nations such as South Africa and Kenya have invested in unmanned drones, sniffer dogs and increased security, but have failed to halt the rising tide of rhino slaughter.
  • In Kenya, each rhino will get two microchips — one in the horn and another one in an unidentified part of the animal.
  • In addition to the microchips, the organization will use forensic DNA technology to identify the animals.
  • “This will serve to strengthen rhino monitoring, protect the animals on site and also support anti-trafficking mechanisms nationally and regionally,” WWF Kenya said.
  • The microchip is less than 2 inches long and can barely be traced by poachers, Magori said. The fitting process is expected to take up to four months.
  • SAUDI ARABIA – U.N. Security Council: (read more at the website un.org/Docs/sc/unsc_background.html)

    • The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security.
    • Its powers, outlined in the United Nations Charter, include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of international sanctions, and the authorization of military action. Its powers are exercised through United Nations Security Council Resolutions.
    • There are 15 members of the Security Council, consisting of five veto-wielding permanent members (China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States) and ten elected members with two-year terms [these are not eligible for immediate re-election] 
    • The ten elected members are elected by the General Assembly for two-year terms starting on January 1st, with five replaced each year. The members are chosen by regional groups and confirmed by the United Nations General Assembly. The African bloc chooses three members; the Latin America and the Caribbean, Asian, and Western European and Others blocs choose two members each; and the Eastern European bloc chooses one member. Also, one of these members is an “Arab country,” alternately from the Asian or African bloc.
    • Security Council members must always be present at UN headquarters in New York so that the Security Council can meet at any time. This requirement of the United Nations Charter was adopted to address a weakness of the League of Nations since that organization was often unable to respond quickly to a crisis.
    • Each Council member has one vote. 
    • Decisions on procedural matters are made by an affirmative vote of at least nine of the 15 members. 
    • Decisions on substantive matters (including imposing sanctions on a country) require nine votes, including the concurring votes of all five permanent members.
    • Under the UN Charter, all 191 Member States (countries) of the United Nations agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council.  While other organs of the United Nations make recommendations to Governments, the Council alone has the power to make decisions which Member States are obligated under the Charter to carry out.

    HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS REPORT SAYS SAUDI RIGHTS RECORD GETTING WORSE:

    • Amnesty International on Monday (Oct. 21) said Saudi Arabia had failed to act on UN Human Rights Council recommendations and “ratcheted up the repression” since 2009, with the arbitrary detention and torture of activists.
    • The London-based watchdog’s statement was released ahead of a UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva on Monday to discuss the oil-rich kingdom’s record, and comes after Riyadh rejected a seat on the UN Security Council, citing the international body’s “double standards” and inability to resolve regional conflicts.
    • “Saudi Arabia’s previous promises to the UN have been proven to be nothing but hot air,” said Amnesty’s MENA director Philip Luther, accusing the kingdom of relying “on its political and economic clout to deter the international community from criticising its dire human rights record.”
    • In its report titled “Saudi Arabia: Unfulfilled Promises,” Amnesty criticized “an ongoing crackdown including arbitrary arrests and detention, unfair trials, torture and other ill-treatment over the past four years” in the kingdom.
    • “Not only have the authorities failed to act, but they have ratcheted up the repression” since 2009, said Luther.
    • Amnesty documented other rights violations it said are committed by Saudi authorities such as “systemic discrimination of women in both law and practise” and “abuse of migrant workers.”
    • Women in the kingdom are not allowed to drive and need permission from their male guardians to travel.

    Resources

    KENYA: Kenya’s rhino preserve website: lewa.org/all-about-lewa/lewa-history