Former Red Cross chief to head Swisspeace

Jakob Kellenberger, former Swiss diplomat and ex-president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, is taking over as head of Swisspeace, the Bern-based research institute.

Former Red Cross chief to head Swisspeace
Jakob Kellenberger. Photo: ICRC

Kellenberger was named on Tuesday to take over as Swisspeace president in September from Hans-Balz Peter, who has overseen the group since 2006.

The NGO describes itself as a “practice-oriented peace research institute” that analyzes the causes of violent conflicts and develops “strategies for their peaceful transformation”.

Kellenberger will help make the work of Swisspeace even better “with his experience in the diplomatic sphere and his contacts on the international level,” the organization said in a news release.

The Appenzell native was secretary of state for foreign affairs from 1992 to 1992 before presiding over the ICRC from 2000 to 2012.

Since his departure from the Red Cross in June 2012 he has been teaching at the University of Salamanca in Spain and at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH).

Kellenberger is also a visiting professor at Geneva's Graduate Institute.

Founded as the Swiss Peace Foundation in 1988, Swisspeace is devoted to improving independent peace research in Switzerland by doing such things as analyzing violent conflicts and their peaceful transformation.

With a staff of around 50, it is associated with the University of Basel and is a member of the Swiss Academy of Humanities and Social Sciences.

An independent research institute, it advises the Swiss government and non-governmental players on questions relative to the civil promotion of peace.

It receives funding principally from the federal department of foreign affairs, the Swiss national fund and the United Nations.

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South Sudan civil war victims face famine

Tens of thousands of people forced to flee violence in South Sudan could go hungry, with fighting interrupting the planting season and cutting off supply chains, the Geneva-based Red Cross warned Monday.

South Sudan civil war victims face famine
Photo: Julius Kusuma

Civil war broke out in South Sudan in December 2013, when president Salva Kiir accused his sacked deputy Riek Machar of attempting a coup.
Most recently civilians have been uprooted from the opposition-held town of Leer, in an oil-rich part of Unity State, and from Kodok in Upper Nile State, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.
It cautioned that hostilities could sever escape routes, and said it feared civilians could suffer from a lack of food and health care while on the run.
In addition, the displacement from Leer, including of many people already uprooted by fighting in Unity state a year ago, “comes just as the country's crucial planting period is under way,” ICRC said in a statement.
“The upheaval will no doubt negatively impact residents' ability to plant food that would be used to feed their families next harvest season,” it said.
The fighting had also forced the ICRC to halt its regular activities and reduce its staff in Leer, where the organization has one of its largest food
distributions in the world.
“Prolonged displacement exposes people to suffering. We fear that the situation of some 100,000 people in Leer, who are now hiding in unimaginably difficult conditions, will worsen day by day,” said Franz Rauchenstein, who heads the ICRC's delegation in South Sudan.
“The ICRC must be able to access these communities. We call upon all involved in the fighting to facilitate the lifesaving work of Red Cross workers,” he added.
The fighting in the world's newest country, which only gained independence from Sudan in 2011, has been characterized by ethnically-driven massacres, rape and attacks on civilians and medical facilities.
The violence, which has escalated into an ethnic conflict involving multiple armed groups, has killed tens of thousands of people.
ICRC said Monday that intensified shelling in the area of Kodok town was endangering the lives of patients at a hospital it supports there, and said
that although the hospital remained open, it had moved its nearby operational base to Oriny.
It reminded all parties involved in the fighting that civilians and medical facilities cannot be targeted, according to international law.
“The more fighting in South Sudan expands, the more . . . the vulnerable will suffer, whether from the risk of sexual violence, a lack of food and medicine or forced conscription of the young,” ICRC said, stressing that using children under the age of 15 as soldiers is a war crime.