Top of the Morning: UN’s Haiti Humanitarian Response Kicks into Gear; Riots in Mombasa; Syria Diplomacy

Top stories from DAWNS Digest.

Haiti Humanitarian Response Kicks into Gear As Isaac Approaches New Orleans

Tropical Storm Isaac looks like it may hit New Orleans, quite possibly on the 5th anniversary of the Katrina disaster. In the meantime, efforts have begun in Haiti to minimize the lasting damage from the storm. “Humanitarian efforts are underway in Haiti following the torrential rains and blustery winds that battered the country over the weekend as Tropical Storm Isaac swept across the nation, the United Nations said today. Tropical Storm Isaac raised considerable concern early last week as it looked set to turn into a hurricane before barrelling down upon the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, shared by both Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Though the storm never fully transformed into a full-blown hurricane, it lashed Haiti with heavy rains and winds causing severe damage to the beleaguered nation, which is still recovering from the devastation of the 2010 earthquake. According to media reports, eight people were killed in Haiti alone and more than 14,000 people had left their homes, while another 13,500 had sought refuge in temporary shelters. Initial reports also indicate that the West and Southeastern Departments were the most affected by the storm, with flooding and mudslides causing extensive damage to bridges, roads and temporary shelters, such as tents and tarps. In a news release, the UN announced that it had begun responding to the humanitarian needs of the local population, providing stocks of food and drinking water to the evacuation centres in the West, South East, Grande Anse and Artibonite Departments.” (UN News Center 

Riots Intensify in Mombasa, Kenya After Prominent Cleric is Slain

Gunmen killed Aboud Rogo, a cleric with alleged ties to al Shebab, on Monday. This set off riots by sympathetic youth in Kenya’s second city. “Kenyan anti-riot police clashed with stone-throwing youths in the port city of Mombasa on Tuesday in a second day of violence ignited by the killing of a Muslim cleric accused by the United States of helping Islamist militants in Somalia. Police fired tear gas and warning shots as youths barricaded streets with burning tyres in the predominantly Muslim Majengo neighbourhood. Mobs marauded around Mombasa’s city centre, taunting police who arrested some of the protesters. Shopkeepers reported looting in some areas of Kenya’s second biggest city, a tourist hub with a major Indian Ocean port…The violence could worsen if it taps into long-standing local grievances over land ownership and unemployment, as well as calls by the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC) for the coastal strip to secede. The MRC said it was not involved in the unrest. Prolonged trouble in Mombasa would hit Kenya’s vital tourism industry, already damaged by the kidnappings of Western women tourists from beach resorts by Somali gunmen.” (Reuters

Two Significant Diplomatic Developments in Syria

1) Egyptian president Mohammad Morsi is attempting to lead a new diplomatic push to convince Assad’s erstwhile backers to help show him the exit. He offered some very harsh words for his Syrian counterpart:  ‘Now is the time to stop this bloodshed and for the Syrian people to regain their full rights and for this regime that kills its people to disappear from the scene…There is no room to talk about reform, but the discussion is about change,’ Morsi said, adding Egypt had repeated that ‘the friends of the Syrian people in China and Russia and other states” need to back ordinary Syrians.’” (Haaretz

2) French president Francois Hollande has urged the Syrian resistance to form a government-in-waiting, which he says his country would recognize as the legitimate Syrian government. “The French leader, clearly frustrated with reticence from China and Russia in crafting a tougher tack against Assad at the United Nations, staked out unprecedented terrain to jolt opposition leaders into unity – both anti-Assad fighters on the ground in Syria and exiles working abroad to end his reign. Hollande’s appeal to the opposition underscores a belief in many diplomatic circles that a credible alternative to Assad’s regime must take shape first in order to expedite the Syrian leader’s exit – an outcome that France, the U.S. and many other Western powers have sought for months.” (Bloomberg