Dec 17, 2017 Last Updated 8:35 AM, Dec 15, 2017
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At least 14 UN peacekeepers have been killed and 53 wounded in an attack in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The UN's Monusco mission said the peacekeepers were attacked by suspected rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in North Kivu province.

Five Congolese soldiers also died.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said it was the worst attack on UN peacekeepers in recent history and amounted to a "war crime".

"I want to express my outrage and utter heartbreak at last night's attack. There must be no impunity for such assaults, here or anywhere else," he said.

Eastern DR Congo has suffered years of instability with rival groups fighting for control of territory.

A Monusco statement said rebels had launched an attack against an operating base at Semuliki in Beni territory on Thursday evening.

"This resulted in protracted fighting between suspected ADF elements and Monusco and FARDC [Congolese] forces," it added.

The head of Monusco, Maman Sidikou, said: "I condemn in the strongest terms this deadly attack on United Nations peacekeepers and the FARDC. Monusco will take all actions to ensure that the perpetrators are held accountable and brought to justice."

Writing on Twitter, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, said reinforcements had been sent to the scene and medical evacuations were under way.

Tanzanian President John Magufuli said he was "shocked and saddened" by the news.

Suspected ADF rebels killed two peacekeepers in October, a BBC correspondent in Kinshasa says.

Monusco is the UN's largest and most expensive peacekeeping operation and has been in operation since 2010.

However, earlier this year the UN revealed a plan to cut the number of peacekeepers there from about 19,000 to 3,000.

Several UN member states have signalled a desire to cut spending on peacekeeping.

Monusco has also faced violent demonstrations by civilians, who accuse it of being ineffective.

Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) President Joseph Kabila told the United Nations on Saturday that his country was moving towards holding elections but vowed to resist "foreign diktats" on setting a date for the historic vote.

Addressing the General Assembly, Kabila appealed for support from his "true friends" as his country confronts what he described as major logistical and security challenges to organise the vote.

Under an agreement reached with opposition groups last year, elections are to be held this year, paving the way to the DR Congo's first democratic transition.

But months later, a date has still not been set for the polls.

"We can affirm that we are most certainly moving towards credible, transparent and peaceful elections," Kabila said.

"This is an irreversible process and this should be put in place without external diktats or interference."

In power since 2001, Kabila officially ended his term in office in December, but he was allowed to remain under the New Year's Eve deal in exchange for guarantees that elections will be held. 

The UN Security Council has demanded that elections be held before the end of this year, but concerns are growing after election officials said in July that a vote in 2017 was unlikely.

Kabila told the UN assembly that organising the elections in the vast country presented major logistical and security challenges, but that he was confronting these "with undeniable tenacity."

Voter registration is progressing with 42 million people out of a total of 45 million citizens of voting age now on the electoral lists, he said.

The United States has threatened to slap sanctions on the DR Congo unless elections are held this year.

Kabila defended a military campaign in the Kasai region, which the United Nations has said resulted in hundreds of extrajudicial killings, saying his forces were fighting "terrorists".

"In the Kasai, a mystical tribal militia is using the civilian population, including children, as human shields, attacking people and state buildings, sowing terror," he said.

Kasai has been in turmoil since a tribal chieftain known as the Kamwina Nsapu, who rebelled against Kabila's regime, was killed in August.

More than 3,000 people have died and 1.4 million have been displaced, according to the Catholic Church.

Kabila described as "barbaric" the murder of two UN experts in the Kasai, and pledged to "shed full light" on the crime and bring those responsible to justice.

Zaida Catalan, a Swedish-Chilean national and American Michael Sharp were killed in March while investigating reports of more than 40 mass graves in the Kasai. 

Their bodies were found in a shallow grave. Catalan had been decapitated.

The president renewed his call for a drawdown of the 20,000-strong UN peacekeeping mission in the DR Congo, saying that after 20 years, the force cannot "stay in my country indefinitely."

Kabila was first propelled into office after his father, Laurent-Desire Kabila, was assassinated in January 2001.

He won a first five-year term in 2006 in a poll organised with the help of the large UN mission.

United Nations member states have expressed alarm at the ongoing rights violations in Burundi. 

During the 36th Regular Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in New York on Tuesday speaker after speaker spoke of abductions, executions and torture being carried out in the East African country, before urging the Burundian authorities to cooperate with the UNHCR.

Trial, an international NGO comprising civil society organisations fighting impunity for war crimes, sent an open letter to the human rights council.

The letter, entitled “Renewing the Mandate of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi and Ensuring Accountability for Serious Crimes”, urged the council to support a resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Burundi.

It also called on the UNHRC to explore all options to ensure accountability for the crimes documented by the COI.

These included the opening of an investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) whose Office of the Prosecutor announced the opening of a preliminary examination on 25 April 2016.

In addition, the UNHRC was urged to call for Burundi’s suspension from the Council, or at a minimum, to explicitly request the General Assembly to take up the matter in accordance with a previous resolution.

“The COI has confirmed the continuation of serious human rights violations from April 2015 to date, including extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests and detention, torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment,” the letter read.

Enforced disappearances and sexual violence perpetrated mainly by the National Intelligence Service (SNR), members of the Imbonerakure, the youth wing of the ruling party, the police and the army were also outlined.

“The COI confirmed that they have reasonable grounds to believe that several of the violations documented constitute crimes against humanity.”

More than 400,000 people have fled Burundi since April 2015.

The government is not revealing the amount of money it is expected to spend for the delegates attending the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) later this month.

Similar meetings in the past have been characterised by a large contingent who included party zealots and traditional leaders, a development that led to the abuse of public funds.

The government was also taken to task after some parastatals were forced to fund people attending the UN General Assembly.

Commenting on the issue, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Emmanuel Fabiano reveals that 19 people will attend the meeting, among them three ministers and President Peter Mutharika.

Fabiano added that the delegation includes three cabinet ministers, senior government officials and some members of the media.

Apart from that, there will be no party representatives in the delegation.

In the past years, President Peter Mutharika and his administration have come under pressure and scrutiny over allegations of bloated entourages to the UN General Assembly which is a drain of public funds. 

Mutharika has also been criticised over his prolonged stay in the states after conclusion of the meeting.

The UN general assembly is expected to start on the 19th of this month up to the 25th.

The UNGA one of the six principal organs of the United Nations (UN), the only one in which all member nations have equal representation, and the main deliberative, policy-making and representative organ of the UN.

Malawi is launching its first-ever National Plan of Action against Trafficking in Persons on Tuesday next week in Lilongwe.

The government enacted the Trafficking in Persons Act in 2015 to help combat trafficking in persons and ensure effective enforcement of the Act.

A statement signed by Secretary of Home Affairs and Internal Security Samuel Madula, indicates that the trafficking in persons plan of action is promoting prevention of trafficking in persons and support and social protection of Victims.

This includes investigation and prosecution of trafficking offences and partnership, coordination and sustainable financing

The United Nations General Assembly in the year 2013 proclaimed 30th July of each year as a Day against trafficking in persons when Nations across the world should raise awareness on the situation of victims of human trafficking and for the promotion and protection of their rights.

However, Stakeholders in Malawi agreed to raise awareness for a period of 30 days that started on 30th July 2017, ending on 29th August 2017.

This is under the National theme that calls for accelerating sustainable partnership: a key to Malawi action against trafficking in persons.

Last month, the United Nations commemorated the fourth annual World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. 

Initially designated in 2013 by the United Nations General Assembly, this day was set aside to raise awareness of this growing crime, now the third largest criminal enterprise globally.

There are currently 22.5 million refugees worldwide, who are at a disproportionately high risk of being trafficked.

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