Western Sahara – 28 Jan 2015

Sahrawi human rights defender calls on UN to act on decolonization of Western Sahara

The Saharawi human rights activist, President of the Sahrawi Association of Victims of Grave human rights violations (ASVDH), Brahim Dahane,called the most influential members of the UN to act as the guarantor of peace and mediation, in an interview with Swiss newspaper, mail, published in its Saturday edition.

“If the UN remains paralyzed, I fear that the war will resume between the Polisario Front and Morocco.” “Some people, especially young people, are ready to die. The desire for independence is strong, and in front of the failure of the United Nations, many are calling for a resumption of the war. It is not our case we still hope for a peaceful solution, “reported the Swiss daily.

“We are harassed. Every action is hampered,” recalled the President of the Sahrawi Association of Victims of Grave human rights violations (ASVDH), Brahim Dahane, who denounces the passivity and even to some officials, the UN complicity, the newspaper said.

After forty years of occupation and separation relationships between camps and the occupied territories of Western Sahara have also strengthened through modern means of communication, he added.

“The links are first, of course, familial, interpersonal, but there is also a common national identification and common recognition of the Polisario Front as a tool, advocate and representative of the Sahrawi people. It is no doubt,” said the same source.

Sahara Press Service


President warns against Moroccan attempts to deviate Western Sahara decolonization process

President of the Republic, Secretary General of the Polisario Front Mr. Mohamed Abdelaziz on Thursday warned against any attempt from the part of Morocco aimed at deviate the completion of decolonization process in Western Sahara.
In a statement, a copy of which obtained by SPS, President Mohamed Abdelaziz said that Morocco, which occupies by force part of Western Sahara, cannot indefinitely deviate the implementation of decolonization in Western Sahara, asking it to stop fueling tension and instability in the northwest part of the continent.
Pending self-determination of the Saharawi people to be implemented, said Saharawi President, the UN must work for the respect of the legal status of Western Sahara as a non-self-governing territory, as defined in Article 73 of the Charter.
He, in this respect, asked the UN to stop the “shameless” exploitation of Saharawi natural resources by Morocco, as to protect Saharawi civilians from Moroccan aggression and human rights violations and thus establish a UN mechanism to observe such abuses.
He went on saying that Moroccan occupation has no right whatsoever to put any specific conditions to the work of the Personal Envoy of the UN Secretary General, his Special Representative or even the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO).

Sahara Press Service


Tifariti University signs twinning agreement with universities in Valencia

The University of Tifariti on Wednesday signed a twinning agreement with public universities in Valencia, Spain, providing for the exchange of experiences between these institutions.
The agreement was signed from the Saharawi party by the Dean of Tifariti, Jatari Hamudi, and from the Spanish party by Mr. Manuel Palomar, dean of Alicante University, Esteban Morcillo, dean of Valencia University, Mr. Vicente Climent, dean of the University of Castellon.
The agreement will give impetus to cooperation between Tifariti University and the aforementioned universities.
It will, therefore, put into reality the project of Tifariti University and lay the foundations of higher education and scientific research in the Saharawi Republic (SADR).
Tifariti University has already inked agreements with more than 20 universities in Europe, Africa and Latin America.

Sahara Press Service

Somalia – 28 Jan 2015

Turkish president in Somalia to launch development projects amid heavy security

Under tight security Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Sunday launched development projects sponsored by his government including an airport terminal in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.
Hundreds of soldiers were deployed across Mogadishu where Somali Islamist extremists have carried out terror attacks targeting Turkish interests. Erdogan, on his second visit to Somalia, was accompanied by his wife, daughter and ministers. Erdogan opened a new Turkish-built terminal for the Mogadishu airport.
Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud lauded Turkey for investing in Somalia despite challenges, including insecurity, caused by decades of turmoil currently from an Islamist extremist insurgency by al-Shabab, which is allied to al-Qaida. Two days ago three people died when an al-Shabab suicide car bomber detonated explosives at a hotel where the Turkish president’s advance party was staying. No Turks were injured in that incident.
African Union troops, who are bolstering Somalia’s weak government against al-Shabab’s insurgency, blamed the attack at the hotel on al-Shabab.
Associate Press

Somalia: UN, international partners call for resolution of country’s political crisis
The United Nations and its international partners today voiced concern over delays in the resolution of Somalia’s long-standing political crisis and in the implementation of a stability-building mechanism as they called on the Horn of Africa nation’s President, Prime Minister and Federal Parliament ‘to unite for the greater good of the country.’
In a joint statement issued by the UN, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), European Union, African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), the United States and United Kingdom, the partners urged the country to ‘move swiftly’ towards the implementation of ‘Vision 2006’ through a new Cabinet endorsed by Parliament, warning that further delays ‘could jeopardize the progress Somalia has made towards building peace and security.’
“September 2016 remains the constitutional deadline for conducting free and fair elections,” they declared. “All Somali institutions must focus on building consensus and act in the national interest.”
The statement comes as Somalia struggles to emerge from a political crisis ignited when a recent parliamentary vote of ‘no confidence’ resulted in the political ouster of Somalia’s former Prime Minister.
The Somali Parliament dismissed Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed on 6 December due to reported disputes between Mr. Ahmed and Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud over political appointments. Since then, the Parliament has confirmed Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke as the country’s new Prime Minister but political uncertainty still remains.
In addition, the country has been plagued by political infighting and bursts of extremist violence as the terrorist group, Al-Shabaab, continues to wage an insurgency. Just last month, in the city of Baidoa, a terrorist attack left at least 15 people dead with many more wounded.
Against that backdrop, Raisedon Zenenga, the UN’s newly appointed Deputy Special Representativearrived today in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, to assume his duties with UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM).

UN News Centre

Somalia: Suicide Bomber Attacks Hotel

A suicide car bomber blew himself up at the gate of a hotel that was being used by a delegation of Turkish officials on Thursday in Mogadishu, killing three Somalis, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu of Turkey said. The blast came a day before a visit by Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. A Somali intelligence official said none of the Turkish delegation’s 70 members had been hurt. Mr. Davutoglu said Mr. Erdogan would go ahead with his visit. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

South Sudan – 28 Jan 2015

Floods hinder relocation of S. Sudanese refugees in Sudan: UNHCR

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that flooding has hindered transfer of South Sudanese refugees to new relocation sites in Sudan’s White Nile state.
Last December, the humanitarian commissioner in Khartoum state, Mustafa al-Sinarri announced the relocation of South Sudanese refugees Khartoum state to the While Nile state, adding it was decided to build new refugees camps near the border.
The operation aims to establish camps to provide the refugees with the adequate services as Khartoum state, which hosts over 150,000 South Sudanese who preferred to remain in Sudan at the independence, failed to provide land for the construction of new camps.
According to the UNHCR, an estimated 119,950 South Sudanese refugees have arrived in Sudan as of 15 January seeking refuge since violence erupted in South Sudan in December 2013.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ (OCHA) newsletter quoted the UNCHR as saying that flooding in White Nile state, caused by the closing to the Jebel Awlia dam, has affected El Redis, El Redis 2 and Jouri relocation sites, noting that access and delivery of basic services to these refugees have been hindered.
It added the flooding has also forced humanitarian actors to temporarily suspend the relocation of refugees from El Redis to El Redis 2 relocation sites.
Earlier this month, the World Food Programme (WFP) reported that it urgently requires $10 million to meet the needs of South Sudanese refugees in Sudan for the next six months.
UNHCR’s regional response plan most likely scenario projects that 196,000 refugees from South Sudan will have arrived in Sudan by the end of 2015.
Sudan Tribune


S. Sudanese rebels deny destroying oil-field facilities

South Sudan’s armed opposition office in Uganda dismissed as “rubbish” Juba’s allegations that the former set on fire oil facilities in oil-rich Unity state this week.
Juba accused rebels of burning an oil facility under their control in Unity state, including oil installations in Pariang county, reportedly set alight on Monday.
But David Otim, the head of rebels’ diplomatic office in Uganda refuted government’s claims, describing it as propaganda to tarnish the opposition’s image.
“Reports we received from the militarily on ground indicate the government was responsible for the violation by trying to regain more territories under our forces”, said Otim.
“That one is a desperate militarily maneuver from the defeated forces of President Salva Kiir. Our forces have never attacked any oil installation,” he added.
The rebel official, however, insisted military options would not resolve the ongoing conflict, which has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced nearly two million.
The latest incident comes after South Sudan army (SPLA) downplayed threats from rebel forces earlier this month, saying it remains in full control of oil fields in both Unity and Upper Nile states.
South Sudan’s oil production has decreased to one quarter of its usual output since conflict broke out in mid-December 2013 following an internal political dispute in the ruling SPLM party.
Production has ceased in Unity state and only barrels in Upper Nile are functional, according to officials.
The latest incident violates an agreement brokered by China in Khartoum on 12 January in which both government and rebel forces committed to protecting oil facilities and foreign workers.
China is the largest investor in South Sudan’s oil industry, the country’s main source of revenue.
Although peace talks between the warring parties, which are being mediated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) have so far failed to yield a lasting political settlement to the crisis, despite growing international pressure for both sides to set aside their differences.
Sudan Tribune


13 killed in S. Sudan ambush, army blames LRA

At least 13 people, including three local journalists, were killed in an ambush by the Lord’s Resistance Army, a Ugandan rebel group, in the remote Raja County in the northern part of South Sudan’s Western Bahr el Ghazal State.
“The LRA laid an ambush for a convoy that was being led by the commissioner of the county,” Army spokesperson Philip Aguer told The Anadolu Agency in Juba on Monday.
“Unfortunately, the vehicle that was carrying civilians and journalists from Western Bahr el Ghazal and accompanying the commissioner fell into the ambush and three journalists and other civilians – including women and children – were killed,” he said.
Aguer put the death toll at 13.
“The commissioner was wounded and is in hospital,” he said. “This is a very unfortunate incident.”
The LRA’s rebellion was first launched more than two decades ago.
It is estimated that between 200 and 500 of the group’s fighters have terrorized local communities across the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and the Central African Republic.

World Bulletin


South Sudan: African Union should publish Commission of Inquiry report, ensure accountability

The African Union (AU) should immediately publish the report of the AU Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan, said Amnesty International, Community Empowerment for Progress Organization, FIDH (the International Federation for Human Rights), and the South Sudan Law Society.

Their joint call comes ahead of the AU summit, amid concern that the ongoing delay in the publication of the report is impacting on the urgent need for accountability for crimes committed in South Sudan.
“Three months after the Commission of Inquiry submitted its report to the AU, its findings and recommendations are yet to see the light of day,” said Edmund Yakani, director of Community Empowerment for Progress Organization. “In the meantime the conflict in South Sudan is continuing unabated with dire impacts on the civilian population.”

Over the past year, all parties to the conflict have committed crimes under international law that amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, including attacks on civilians often based on ethnicity or perceived political allegiance, sexual violence, and wide-spread destruction and looting of civilian property.

The Commission of Inquiry ended investigations in August and submitted its final report to the Chairperson of the AU Commission in October 2014. Since then it has not been made public.
The AU Peace and Security Council will consider the situation in South Sudan and the report of the Commission of Inquiry on 29 January.

The organizations also called on the AU to insist that there be accountability for violations of human rights and humanitarian law that have taken place in South Sudan. Publishing the report, along with a regional commitment to ensure accountability, could play an important role in deterring further crimes as well as ending the conflict.

Amnesty International

Sudan – 18 Jan 2015

Sudan to inaugurate new presidential palace on Monday

The Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir and his staff will officially move on Monday to the new presidential palace that was constructed by a Chinese company and funded by Beijing.
The date coincides with the anniversary Khartoum’s liberation from British occupation by forces loyal to religious figure Mohamed Ahmed al-Mahdi in 1885 and the killing of General Charles Gordon in what is now the presidential palace.
Bashir will inaugurate the new palace in the presence of 1st Vice-President General Bakri Hassan Saleh and 2nd VP Hassabo Abdel-Rahman along with other executive and parliamentary officials and foreign dignitaries and diplomats.
The presidential press secretary Emad Sid Ahmed said that the new palace “is a source of pride for Sudanese and affirmation of the continued process of development and construction” adding that it reflects the heritage and authenticity of the Sudanese people.
Sudan Tribune


Khartoum renews accusations of Juba’s support to rebel groups

Sudan’s defence minister, Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hussein, has renewed accusations that South Sudan continues to harbor and support Sudanese rebel groups.
ording to the official news agency (SUNA), Hussein discussed with the African Union High-level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) chairman, Thabo Mbeki, on Sunday the outstanding issues between Khartoum and Juba.
The meeting which was attended by the chief of staff of the ground forces, Emad al-Deen Mustafa Adawi, and the head of military intelligence Siddig Aamer, also discussed resumption of peace talks with the rebel groups.
According to SUNA, Hussein underscored that the AUHIP has understood Sudan’s refusal to include Darfur problem among other security issues, stressing that rebel groups continue to receive arms support for South Sudan.
Relations between Sudan and South Sudan have been shaky since the latter seceded from its northern neighbor on July 2011. Khartoum and Juba continue to trade accusations of support to rebel groups from both sides since South Sudan attained independence.
Last December, the director of Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), Mohamed Atta, warned South Sudan against supporting and funding Sudanese rebels, particularly the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM).
Sudan Tribune


Sudan’s NCP vows to discipline members running independently in elections

The ruling National Congress Party (NCP) warned that they will hold accountable any of its members who plan run independently in the upcoming general elections.
Mohamed Awad al-Baroodi, an NCP leading figure and ex-minister of culture in Khartoum state government, will run against the party’s candidate president Omer Hassan al-Bashir in the presidential elections.
The NCP Shura council secretary Mohamed Tahir Osham revealed that some party figures have been dispatched to the states to talk some members out of running as independents in legislative races.
He said that a disciplinary committee will take measures against those who disapproved of the party’s nominations in parliamentary elections.
Osham asserted that it is never too late for those members to pull out of the race to avoid punishment.
The National Elections Commission (NEC) will announce on Sunday the final list of candidates for the April elections at all levels.
Sudan Tribune


North Darfur camp faces water shortages : IDPs
North Darfur internally displaced persons (IDPs) who fled their areas in east Jebel Marra following the recent fighting there are now facing water shortages and sanitation-related diseases in Zamzam camp where they reside.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said on Wednesday that more than 18,000 people have been newly verified as displaced in El Fasher, Shangil Tobaya, Tawila and Um Baru areas in North Darfur.
The spokesperson of Darfur IDPs and refugees association Hussein Abu Sharati, told Sudan Tribune Saturday that the residents of Zamzam camp, 10 km west of El Fasher, are affected by severe shortages after the flow of 10,000 IDPs this month.
Abu Sharati further warned that the situation would deteriorate during the upcoming summer season where the need for water consummation will increase.
On the other hand, he spoke about the need for sanitation facilities, adding that defecating in the open has serious health implications and puts the IDPs at risk of diseases and epidemics.
The hybrid operation in Darfur (UNAMID) warned this week of the humanitarian impact of the clashes between the government forces and rebels.
“UNAMID is working in coordination with the UN country team and other humanitarian actors to provide protection and assist in the distribution of urgent aid to the affected populations,” the peacekeeping mission said in a statement issued on 22 January.
Sudan Tribune

CAR – 28 Jan 2015

Central African Republic minister kidnapped, another targeted

Central African Republic’s minister for youth and sport was kidnapped on Sunday by gunmen in the capital, Bangui, and a second minister narrowly escaped capture in a town to the north, officials said.
The seizure of Armel Ningatoloum Sayo follows the brief kidnapping earlier this week of a U.N. staff member and a French charity worker, highlighting insecurity in the country despite the presence of French and U.N. peace keepers.
Tatiana Yangeko, Sayo’s spokeswoman, said the minister was driving his wife and his brother back from church when four unidentified gunmen in a taxi stopped their vehicle in Bangui’s 8th arrondissement, in the north of the capital.


Cleric and French aid worker kidnapped in the Central African Republic are released

After spending four days in captivity at the hands of anti-Balaka vigilantes, a cleric and a French aid worker were released by their captors on January 23.
According to the World Watch Monitor, Gustave and Claudia Priest were released by their captors after successful negotiations led by Bangui Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga and Evangelical Alliance President and Rev. Nicolas Guérékoyamé Gbangou of the Christians and Muslims Platform.
Gustave works for the diocesan humanitarian organisation CODIS while Priest heads her own charitable organisation.
Gustave and Priest were kidnapped by anti-balaka militiamen on January 19 while returning to Bangui. The two victims and a third individual, named only as Elkana, had come from Damara. Four armed gunmen were waiting for them at the church at Bangui’s 4th district and took them from their vehicle at gunpoint.
The anti-balakas are Christian vigilantes who are violently pursuing the remnants of the disbanded Seleka coalition, which previously led the Central African Republic. The Seleka coalition had engaged in violence against Christians from March 2013 until early 2014 when a new government was set up in the Central African Republic.
Elkana managed to extricate himself from the situation and escaped. Gustave and Priest were kidnapped and taken to anti-balaka stronghold Boy Rab. Their possessions, including money, the vehicle they were in and the medicine that it carried, were taken by the militiamen who demanded the release of Rodrigue Ngaibona, an anti-balaka militia leader that was arrested by United Nations peacekeepers on January 18.
Christian Today


Central African Republic: Security Council renews sanctions amid ‘continuous cycle’ of violence

Strongly condemning the resurgence of deadly violence across the Central African Republic (CAR), the United Nations Security Council today reinvigorated its sanctions against those individuals implicated in the country’s ongoing sectarian tensions which have pushed it to the brink of all-out conflict.
In today’s unanimously adopted resolution, the 15-member Council expressed ‘grave concern’ at the continuing destabilization of the CAR by armed groups, warning that the situation poses ‘a permanent threat to the peace, security and stability of the country’ while also constituting a threat to international peace and security in the region.
The Council renewed a series of sanctions targeting all individuals involved in undermining ‘the peace, stability and security of the CAR,’ calling on all Member States to maintain a series of measures, including an arms embargo, travel ban and asset freeze which would continue until 29 January 2016.
More than two years of civil war and sectarian violence have displaced thousands of people in the CAR amid continuing clashes between the mainly Muslim Séléka alliance and anti-Balaka militia, which are mostly Christian.
Among the severe concerns afflicting the country, noted the Council, is the ‘continuous cycle of provocations and reprisals by armed groups,’ repeated human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests, sexual violence, and the denial of humanitarian access to the thousands of people affected by the worsening security conditions.
According to UN estimates, nearly 440,000 people remain displaced inside the country while some 190,000 have sought asylum across the borders. At the same time, more than 36,000 people – including the Peuhl ethnic group – remain trapped in enclaves across the country, hoping to find asylum in neighbouring States.
On that note, the Council Members stressed the ‘urgent and imperative’ need to end impunity in the CAR and reiterated the need for all perpetrators of violent acts to be held accountable, noting that some acts “may amount to crimes” under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

UN News Centre

DRC – 28 Jan 2015

Democratic Republic of Congo Extends Internet Blockage

The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo has imposed an Internet blackout on the country for a third straight day as protesters kept up pressure on President Joseph Kabila.
The government late Monday ordered telecommunications companies to sever all Internet and short-message services, after antigovernment protests spread from the capital Kinshasa to the restive eastern Kivu provinces.

At least 15 people have been killed since the protests erupted, said Information Minister Lambert Mende, who said most of the dead were looters. But the International Federation for Human Rights on Thursday put the number of the dead at 42. Mr. Mende disputed that figure.

Meanwhile, police backed by troops battled protesters in the eastern city of Goma. The protests aim to stop the country’s Senate from passing legislation that would require a national census in the continent’s top copper producer before the next national elections. Such a move could extend the president’s time in power beyond his constitutionally mandated two, five-year terms. Mr. Kabila’s second term expires in 2016.
Critics say it could take years to put together census to cover a country the size of Western Europe. The government insists a census could be completed within a year.
The Wall Street Journal


Democratic Republic of Congo parliament passes election law without controversial provisions

The parliament in the Democratic Republic of Congo has passed a new election law after removing contentious provisions ordering a pre-election census. The previous version, passed a week ago, led to deadly protests.

Lawmakers in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday gave final approval to a disputed new election law in a version amended to remove provisions that the opposition claimed would extend President Joseph Kabila’s term in office.
The law, which in its previous version ordered a national census before the next presidential election in 2016, triggered days of protests that killed dozens after the lower house passed it last weekend.

The second vote in the National Assembly on Sunday came after the Senate, under public and diplomatic pressure, on Friday amended the bill to read that the electoral roll only had to be updated by the time elections take place in 2016.

The opposition had said that carrying out a census would cause a long delay to the elections, allowing Kabila to stay in power for longer. A census in Congo could take years to complete owing to the country’s large population of 60 million and lack of basic infrastructure.

Deutsche Welle


Congo police fire at protesters opposed to election changes

There have been clashes in the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, between police and protesters opposed to electoral changes that could prolong the reign of the president. Unrest was also reported in the east of the country.

Police fired tear gas at the crowd of several thousand protesters who’d gathered in the streets of Kinshasa. There were also clashes in the eastern city of Goma on Monday. Journalists reported people with bullet wounds in both cities.
In Kinshasa, tires were set on fire with smoke billowing into the air. The crowds threw stones at police.

The demonstrators are opposed to a revised election law that could delay elections until next year. Under the changes, a nationwide census would be carried out before elections, potentially delaying them by years.

The government of President Joseph Kabila says the census is a necessary part of the electoral process in the country of 65 million. Critics, however, have labeled the reform a “constitutional coup.”

The bill containing the changes was approved over the weekend by the lower house of parliament, and proceeds to the senate for examination.

Deutsche Welle


Repression in the Democratic Republic of Congo: Joseph Kabila Attacks and Brutalizes Civilians

This Monday, January 19, 2015, most of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is in turmoil. The civilian population has been on the streets from the West in the capital city of Kinshasa to the east in cities such as Bukavu in spite of Joseph Kabila’s police brutally attacking and repressing the people from exercising their right to protest. And, according to the UN’s MONUSCO’s media outlet, Radio Okapi, Martin Kobler, the UN special representative, has deplored the killing of civiliansby Joseph Kabila’s forces.
The Congolese people are marching in order to stop Joseph Kabila from changing the Congolese constitution so that he can remain in power past December 2016, the end of his second and last term as prescribed by the DRC constitution. Since last year, the United States through its Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama’s special envoy to the African Great Lakes and to the DRC, former Senator Russ Feingold, have frankly told Joseph Kabila that the US will not support nor accept that he changes the DRC constitution for him to stay on as president of the DRC. France, England, the EU, and the UN all have told him the same thing.

Yet, Joseph Kabila, backed by his mentors Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, has been doing everything to go against the wishes of the Congolese people as well as against the advice of these governments and institutions. So, now, he has come up with a scheme that will allow him to remain in power way beyond 2016.

Huffington Post

Madagascar – 28 Jan 2015

Madagascar names new ministers amid public grumbles over blackouts

Madagascar’s president announced the replacement of eight ministers late on Sunday, including a new finance minister, after the government was dissolved earlier this month amid mounting public frustration over power cuts and other issues.
Air force commander and businessman Jean Ravelonarivo was last week sworn in as the new premier.
While 22 ministers, including the minister of mining and petroleum, will keep their jobs, there were shake-ups in the ministries of health, culture, trade and the environment.
Maurice Gervais Rakotoarimanana, an accountant who has worked with the World Bank, will be the next minister of finance and budget.
“This government is ready to fight. Ready to fight against poverty, ready to fight for the development of infrastructure, for education, for health,” President Hery Rajaonarimampianina said in a press conference after the appointment, adding that “special attention” will be given to building the energy sector.
The mineral-rich island nation has been struggling to rebuild its economy, which was battered after a 2009 coup that drove away donors and investors.

Reuters Africa

Madagascar Floods Death Toll Rises to 68 as New Storms Approach

The death toll from flooding across Madagascar following a tropical storm last week climbed to 68 people as the Indian Ocean island nation faces more storms, the National Office for Disaster Management said.

At least 131,460 people have been registered as “storm victims,” while 45,600 people have been forced to flee their homes in the wake of Tropical Storm Chedza, the office said in an e-mailed statement Monday. The government plans to take steps to protect residents from future flooding, President Hery Rajaonarimampianina told reporters Sunday in the capital, Antananarivo.

“Madagascar shall take measures to reduce illegal buildings and dwellings and to ensure Antananarivo has enough evacuation channels to avoid any repetitive flooding,” he said while announcing his new cabinet.

At least 260 people have died from flooding and torrential rains in Madagascar, Mozambique and Malawi this month. One of two tropical areas of low pressure in the Indian Ocean is being “monitored closely” for possible development into a storm, according to accuweather.com


Madagascar needs resources to continue battle against locust plague

The battle against a plague of locusts in Madagascar is in danger of being lost, as funding to continue efforts against widespread infestations runs out, putting 13 million people at risk of food insecurity, the United Nations agricultural agency said today.

A three-year anti-locust programme was launched by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) alongside the Madagascan Government in 2013 in response to a plague that swept the country the previous year. It successfully halted the spread but the risks of relapse are high in the rainy season, which provides ideal breeding conditions, an FAO press release said.

“Taking action now is critical to ensure the significant efforts made so far, financially and technically, are built upon rather than lost,” said Dominique Burgeon, Director of FAO’s Emergency and Rehabilitation Division. “The current campaign is essential to reinforce the decline of the current plague, avoiding any relapse, and then continue towards a full-fledged locust recession.”

The first quarter of the year is especially important because it corresponds to the second phase of breeding. Most locusts present at this time are wingless ‘hoppers’, which are easier to combat because they are more sensitive to pesticides and slower moving than winged adults. After last year’s successes, the FAO warns that hoppers will gather in smaller groups, making them harder to find and requiring more ground and aerial surveys to do so.

UN News Centre

Africa – 28 Jan 2015

Zambia’s new leader drops white vice president

As interim president since the death in office of Michael Sata in October, Scott had been the first white leader on the continent since the end of apartheid 20 years ago.
He was replaced as vice president by Inonge Wina, a former gender minister and chairwoman of the ruling Patriotic Front.
Scott had sacked Lungu from his position as party general secretary during a power struggle after Sata’s death, but later reinstated him after rioting by supporters.
Scott, who is of Scottish descent, was prevented by the constitution from standing for the presidency himself as his parents were not born in Zambia.
He had told local media that he saw his role as interim president as largely ceremonial and was looking forward to handing over power so that he could enjoy his “gin and tonic”.
Lungu made several other new appointments to the cabinet after winning last week’s election, but retained Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda and Foreign Affairs Minister Harry Kalaba.
Times Live


SA: Negotiations still ongoing for SADC Uni-visa

The Department of Home Affairs says negotiations for the introduction of the mooted SADC Uni-visa are at an advanced stage.
While more information was not immediately available, Home Affairs spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete on Friday confirmed that negotiations were well underway.
“At this stage, we cannot tell when [the Uni-visa] is going to be introduced,” said Tshwete.
The idea is for the Uni-visa to apply to incoming international tourists. However, concerns have been raised that most tourists would choose Johannesburg as their point of entry.
The single visa would allow entry into countries in the 15-member regional bloc, which includes Angola, Botswana, DR Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The introduction of such a visa for the region would facilitate the smooth entry and travel of regional and international visitors, especially within trans-frontier conservation areas, and add an estimated 3% – 5% to annual growth.
Revenue share would have to be worked out carefully since tourism visas are an important source of income for many of the SADC countries.
African Brains


African Union’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma Slams Human Trafficking

As the 24th African Union Summit kicks off in the Ethiopian capital later this week on the 30th, today marked the first day of the 26th session of the Executive Council.
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the chairperson of the AU Commission, opened the ceremony with a speech that set the tone for this week’s meetings that will culminate in the assembly.
She spoke much about the protection of the population, specifically the situation of young people as more and more try to enter the job market. Praising the advancement of the internet, Dlamini-Zuma said the increase in the number of entrepreneurs across the continent comes down to access to the online world. However, she stressed that the main obstacle that many young people complain of is access to start-up capital.
The AU chairperson also took a moment to talk about the “modern form of slavery” that continues to ravage parts of the continent: human trafficking. She said much needs to be done to ensure that these socio-economic fronts are also tackled.

All Africa


Boko Haram must be tackled globally: African Union

Boko Haram is a global threat that must be tackled globally, but with Africa in lead, Nkosazan Dlamini-Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission, has said.

The chairperson made the remark on Monday at the opening of the 26th ordinary session of the AU Executive Council in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

“I am deeply horrified by the tragedy Boko Haram continues to inflict on our people, kidnapping young girls from school, torching villages, terrorizing communities and the senseless killings,” she said, underlining the need to act collectively against the threat.

“What started off as a localized criminal gang is now spreading into West and Central Africa. We must act now, and act collectively against this progressing threat,” she said.

The AU Commission has accelerated its ongoing consultations with member states and other partners on how to deal with Boko Haram, she said, adding that it would be on the agenda of the Peace and Security Council during the 24th AU summit scheduled for January 30 to 31.

The chairperson expressed her deep appreciation to AU peacekeepers across Africa for their heroic contribution to peace and service of their continent and people.

Global Times

Swaziland – 28 Jan 2015

Swaziland Government Critic Dlamini Quits Union

Barnes Dlamini, president of the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland and a critic of the government of King Mswati III, resigned from the labor organization, the Swazi Observer reported.
Dlamini tendered his resignation on Jan. 17 as the union federation’s National Governing Council met. He also quit his position at Illovo Sugar Ltd. (ILV), the paper said. Dlamini said he plans to concentrate on a family business and wasn’t under political pressure to step down, according to the report.
Dlamini was prominent in 2011 protests demanding political change in Africa’s last absolute democracy. He campaigned against the Swazi government at the International Labour Organisation, efforts that were partly responsible for a U.S. decision to exclude Swaziland from the African Growth Opportunity Agreement.
Business Week


Swaziland: PM Wrong On Agoa Impact

Swaziland’s Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini is trying to cover up the devastating impact on the kingdom of the withdrawal of a trade agreement with the United States.
He said it would not affect trade, but an independent report said it would destroy the textile industry.
On 1 January 2015 the United States withdrew Swaziland’s trade benefits under the Africa Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) and the kingdom’s exports to the US will no longer be free of tariffs.
The withdrawal came after Swaziland failed to meet five conditions of eligibility, regarding workers’ rights in the kingdom and King Mswati III’s refusal to introduce democratic reforms.
Since the decision was announced in May 2014, the Swazi Government, which is handpicked by King Mswati, who rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, has been on a mission to mislead Swazi people and the international community about the shattering consequences of withdrawal of trade benefits.
All Africa


Abu Dhabi Fund for Development gives Dh36.7m loan to Swaziland’s government
Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD) has extended Dh36.73 million as a concessionary loan to the Government of Swaziland aiming to support the kingdom’s economic and social development through the development of roads and improvement of surface transportation network.
As a starting point, the funding will finance phase 1 of the Manzini — Mbadlana road development. The project includes the reconstruction and upgrading of a 30-kilometre highway consisting of two lanes in each direction, including civil works, earth works and pavement, as well as intersection lighting works and provision of road safety equipment.

Gulf News

Zimbabwe – 28 Jan 2015

Zimbabwe’s unemployment rate is 5.42 percent, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

Unemployment rates in Zimbabwe are often reported to be between 80 and 90 percent, but these rates did not take into account the vast numbers of people in informal employment.
According to a chart published by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), a UN agency, on its website Zimbabwe’s real unemployment rate has hovered around five percent since 2006. An exception was when it reached 6.4 percent in 2009.
Zimbabwe’s hyperinflationary crisis peaked in late 2008 before a unity government was sworn in, in February 2009.
The numbers of those in formal employment are steadily decreasing in Zimbabwe as an economic squeeze tightens. More than 6000 people were reported officially retrenched last year. Zimbabwe has more than 230,000 civil servants.
Times Live

White Farmers to Meet Zimbabwe Government Over Land Seizures
Zimbabwe’s Commercial Farmers’ Union, which represents mainly white farmers, will meet with Lands and Resettlement Minister Douglas Mombeshora to discuss the government’s plans to evict whites still growing crops.
“We’ve managed to secure a meeting with Minister Mombeshora tomorrow to seek clarification on whether government still wants us to farm in the country,” CFU Director Hendrik Olivier said in an interview in the capital, Harare, on Tuesday. Mombeshora confirmed the planned meeting when contacted by phone.
The government on Jan. 22 gave white crop farmers 90 days to leave their land. It gave an exemption to dairy farmers and livestock breeders. About 300 white farmers remain on their properties after the often violent evictions of about 3,500 growers between 2000 and 2008.


China puts screws on Zim

The Chinese government is seeking the secondment of its officials to key Zimbabwe parastatals to ensure that Chinese loans for government projects are not lost to “leakages”, it emerged this week.
A Chinese delegation was in Zimbabwe to lay the groundwork for the implementation of economic agreements signed in August by the two countries. There are now concerns from some government officials that the Chinese government is angling for a greater stake in, and control of, Zimbabwe’s natural resources and government entities before the agreements are implemented.
Zimbabwe has so far failed to get the $27-billion it is seeking to implement its ambitious economic blueprint, the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZimAsset), which the government sees as a panacea to the country’s economic problems.
Zimbabwe signed a number of memorandums of understanding with China during President Robert Mugabe’s visit there last year, which the government said would kick-start the implementation of ZimAsset and aid efforts to revive the economy.
China pledged to assist Zimbabwe in implementing infrastructure ¬projects in various sectors of the economy, including power generation, water, telecommunications, agriculture and mining.
China’s concerns
Mugabe went to China seeking a $4-billion rescue package, but other than the memorandums of understanding, he came back empty- handed. Most of the projects agreed to with the Chinese government have yet to take off and are subject to feasibility studies.
The Chinese have also expressed concern over the loss of revenue in the parastatals and ministries that will oversee the implementation of the deals, should the feasibility studies be successful.
“It is against that background that the Chinese want to ensure that systems are put in place to ensure that, should the deals go ahead, funds are not lost due to leakages,” said a government official, who did not want to be named for fear of victimisation. “They want their people to be attached to some of the key parastatals that will implement the deals to ensure there is no revenue loss.
“They believe their people will also help to capacitate the parastatals and ensure an enhancement of skills. Although indications are that the Chinese will have their way, there are some among us who believe the Chinese have in a way colonised us as they are taking over the economy and are now moving into parastatals.”
But Economic Planning Minister Simon Khaya Moyo told the Mail & Guardian in a phone interview on Wednesday, the visit by the Chinese delegation would be beneficial to Zimbabwe as the government tries to implement the ZimAsset turnaround plan.

Mail and Guardian