SALO Associate Rebone Tau, a leading ANC Youth League activist, with the new ANC President, Comrade Cyril Ramaphosa.
Democratic Republic of Congo
People fleeing the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo) have reported a surge in arbitrary killings, rapes and abductions by unidentified armed groups.
The violence has pushed more than 10,000 people into neighbouring Uganda since the beginning of December, according to the UN.
Rebecca Salama, a refugee from Congo, told Al Jazeera in Uganda’s Nyakabande refugee transit camp in western Uganda that armed groups kept attacking her village, forcing her to walk into neighbouring Uganda with her husband and five children.
The Democratic Republic of Congo has in recent years emerged as one of the most important nations to watch for digital rights violations in Africa. As the political reality in the central African nation heats up, authorities have resorted to a distinct tactic to keep demonstrations and anti-government rhetoric in check: shutting down the internet and SMS services.
Digital rights activists say a 16-year-old law has been instrumental in cracking down on internet accessibility. Passed in 2002, law No. 013/2002 (in French) governs the telecommunication sector and confers powers on the government to take charge of communication facilities in the interest of national security or public defense. Internet service providers, including Bharti Airtel and Orange Group, have often complied with government orders, fearing their licenses would be terminated if they refused to assent.
With an internet penetration of just 6.2%, the DR Congo has repeatedly cut off internet services to its more than 83 million people, blocked or throttled social media outlets, and surgically targeted services like WhatsApp, Facebook, YouTube, and Skype in order to hamper communication among protesters while allowing businesses like banks to operate. In 2017, the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa estimated the DR Congo was losing $2 million a day due to these shutdowns.
The UN Security Council on Thursday welcomed Somalia’s progress and urged the parties to make 2018 a year of implementation of various reforms.
In a press statement, the Security Council welcomed the political commitment to security sector, economic and political reforms.
The council stressed the importance of making progress on the political settlement in preparation for elections in 2020/2021.
It welcomed the Nov. 5 agreement between the federal government and states on taking forward security and federalism, and urged the federal government to ensure high-level dialogue with states to make progress on key issues, including the constitutional review, elections, fiscal federalism, and power and resource sharing.
Somalia government and federal member states on Thursday signed a new agreement seeking to streamline the justice and corrections system, critical institutions shattered by over two decades of civil war.
The accord provides a framework within which the federal and state-level governments can support the rebuilding of the country’s justice and corrections system.
“This agreement will enable the systematic building of justice and corrections institutions at state and federal levels and increased provision of basic justice chain services for the Somali people,” said Staffan Tillander, Director of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) Rule of Law and Security Institutions Group.
UNSOM said in a statement that its activities include supporting the country in the next phase of building a justice system that upholds judicial independence and benefits all Somalis and a humane and secure corrections system.
Central African Republic
Surging violence in the Central African Republic (CAR) has put unprecedented numbers of people on the run, the United Nations refugee agency said Tuesday, reporting that hungry, desperate arrivals being registered in neighbouring Chad say their houses have been torched and that armed groups are “killing anyone in their way.”
Overall, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said the violence has pushed displacement to its highest levels since the start of the violence in 2013, moreover, estimates show that almost half the population is now food insecure and some 2.5 million people need humanitarian assistance.
“Data as of the end of December shows that 688,700 people were displaced internally – 60 per cent more than just a year ago,” Adrian Edwards, UNHCR spokesperson told reporters at today’s regular press briefing in Geneva.
Meanwhile, 542,380 CAR refugees are in neighbouring countries, a 12 per cent increase compared to last year.
Human rights groups in Central African Republic say a former warlord who fought in the anti-Balaka militia has been sentenced to life in prison, a first for this conflict-wracked country.
The International Federation for Human Rights said on Monday that the conviction of Rodrigue Ngaibona, known as “General Andjilo,” is the first of its kind since communal tensions erupted in 2013. A coalition of human rights group said on Monday it was a “decisive first step.”
The anti-Balaka are an armed group that rose in opposition to the Muslim rebels who had overthrown the government in 2012.
The opposition Sudan Call forces in Khartoum, which is supportive for the African Union efforts for peace and reforms in Sudan, has declined an invitation by the chief mediator for a consultation meeting in Addis Ababa on 4-5 February
They further criticised the silence of the mediation over the arrest of the opposition leaders and even its decision to hold a meeting for the Two Areas only with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) led by Abdel Aziz al-Hilu.
The African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) led by President Thabo Mbeki has called the Sudanese government and the SPLM-N led by Abdel Aziz al-Hilu for a new round of talks but excluded the other SPLM-N faction of Malik Agar saying this time talks are on a ceasefire agreement in the Two Areas pointing that the latter has no forces on the ground.
Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour has postponed a planned visit to France next week, Sudanese diplomatic source said on Thursday.
“The Sudanese-French talks that were scheduled in Paris were delayed due to Ghandour’s participation in the African summit in Addis Ababa,” a Sudanese official said under the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to the press.
“The visit will take place at a later date to be determined through diplomatic channels,” he said.
The two countries resumed bilateral meetings after several years of strain over rebel presence in France. The visit means to mark the improvement of relations and to discuss bilateral cooperation on areas of interest.
My country is the youngest. Its birth was a joyous time. Yet South Sudan has been brought up in a broken home, with our leaders constantly battling for control.
Our East African neighbours always ask us to keep the noise down but, in reality, constantly sneak in through the back door to pilfer what they can for themselves.
Every day of fighting takes us closer to the point of no return. The humanitarian crisis disproportionately affects the most vulnerable in society: Women, children and the elderly. Rape against women and girls is being used as a weapon. The violence is increasingly along ethnic lines.
US Ambassador Nikki Haley said on Wednesday the United States is giving up on South Sudan’s president after backing the country’s independence in 2011 and investing over $11bn, calling him “an unfit partner” in the pursuit of peace and urging an arms embargo on the conflict-wracked nation.
She cited President Salva Kiir for almost immediately violating a December 21 cease-fire that took effect three days later, for blocking aid to millions in need despite a promise of “free and unhindered access,” and for last month’s promotion of three generals sanctioned by the UN Security Council in 2015 for leading “the slaughter” of civilians.
In a hard-hitting speech to the council, Haley called the generals’ promotion “a slap in the face” of the council, of nations that supported the Kiir government, and “of basic decency.”
The UN envoy on Western Sahara talks between Morocco and the Polisario Front has invited the parties and neighboring countries to Berlin for bilateral talks, a UN spokesperson said Tuesday.
Former German president Horst Koehler has invited the foreign ministers of Morocco, Algeria and Mauritania, as well as Polisario Front Secretary-General Brahim Ghali, Koehler’s spokesman said.
No date was given in the statement beyond mention of “this January and February.”
Koehler was appointed in August as special envoy to lead a new UN push for talks between Morocco and the Algerian-backed Polisario Front on Western Sahara.
Morocco and the Polisario fought for control of Western Sahara from 1974 to 1991, with Rabat taking over the desert territory before a UN-brokered ceasefire in the former Spanish colony.
The UN Secretary General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara has invited the relevant “parties to the conflict” to “separate talks” in Germany, according to reports in Morocco. Horst Kohler initiated the invitation to Morocco, the Polisario front and Mauritania following a ten-day tour of Europe and Africa. Kohler held talks with EU officials in Brussels and AU officials in Addis Ababa to discuss the Western Sahara issue.
The UN opened negotiations between Morocco and the Polisario Front in 2007. A number of sessions have followed since, but little progress has been made. The last of these negotiations took place in New York in 2012; again, there was no positive outcome.
Under Morocco’s autonomy plan, the Sahrawis will have exclusivity in managing local affairs but will only be able to function under Morocco’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The plan has been rejected by the Polisario Front and its backer Algeria, which supports full autonomy for Western Sahara independent of Morocco.
Middle East Monitor
In mid-December, Zweli Martin Dlamini received a tip-off. As a professional private investigator and editor of the independent business newspaper Swaziland Shopping, he receives plenty of them — usually about politicians taking bribes, shady tender deals or the hidden hand of the monarchy in Swazi affairs.
But this tip-off was a little closer to home. According to his anonymous informant, Dlamini was about to be arrested. His reporting had upset the powers that be and they were coming for him.
He panicked. He left his home and drove from Mbabane to Manzini, Swaziland’s second city, where his face wasn’t quite so recognisable. He spent the night in his car but he was too worried to sleep much.
“It was painful. When you sleep in a car for doing your job, it tells you something. I received first-hand experience of how we journalists are treated in Swaziland.”
In the morning, when the border post opened, he crossed into South Africa. To safety. To exile.
“It’s not safe for me to go home. I can’t just go back without knowing what will happen to me.”
Swaziland’s King Mswati III will miss the 30th Ordinary Session of the African Union General Assembly taking place in Ethiopia at the weekend as he is still observing the Incwala traditional rites that keep him out of the public spotlight for three months.King Mswati is not yet ready to participate in public events, both nationally and internationally, because he is observing the Incwala traditional rites.
The Incwala ceremony requires him to be out of the public eye between November and February.
His first appearance will be in three weeks’ time when he is expected to officially open the 5th session of the 10th Parliament of Swaziland.
He will be represented by Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini at the AU meeting that kicks off in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on January 28. Dlamini left Mbabane for Ethiopia on Thursday night.
Journal du Cameroun
Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change led by Morgan Tsvangirai has dismissed President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s remarks that the country will hold free and fair elections this year, saying the current electoral environment is not conducive for transparency.
In a statement, the MDC-T said, “Whilst the Mnangagwa administration has been persistently stating that this year’s elections will be free and fair, the situation that obtains on the ground points to a totally different scenario. For instance, in virtually all the country’s rural areas, people have been forced to surrender the serial numbers of their biometric voter registration slips to their local village heads and Zanu PF officials.
“This has been a systematic campaign of psychological and emotional terror meant to instil fear in the rural electorate so that they are compelled to vote for Zanu PF in the forthcoming elections. This psychological terror campaign has now reached the cities because in certain parts of Highfield and Hopley in the capital city, Harare, Zanu PF officials have embarked on a door to door campaign forcing people to surrender serial numbers of their voter registration slips. Needless to state, this reprehensible and unlawful practice can never be consistent with a desire to conduct a free and fair election.”
Voice of America
Zimbabwean Vice President Constantino Chiwenga reportedly left lawmakers from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) outraged when he told the party’s vice president Nelson Chamisa during a parliamentary session that the country would have been better off if he had not gone to the US and other places “campaigning for sanctions”.
According to New Zimbabwe.com, the problem started after Chamisa asked about pensions for war veterans.
Chamisa reportedly said that all the countries in the world, except Zimbabwe, took care of their war veterans. He said that the Zimbabwean government seemed reluctant to “restore the legacy” of war veterans.
Chamisa said this was not inspiring for a government that had been in power for more than three decades and yet failed to acknowledge the importance of the country’s freedom fighters.
Africa in General
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said Thursday his government will deepen economic cooperation with Sudan, including boosting production of lower-cost sugar and expanding Nairobi’s tea exports to the Arab nation.
Kenyatta who spoke when he met Kamal Ismael, special envoy of Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir in Nairobi, recalled that during meetings with the Sudanese leader, they had agreed to collaborate more on sugar production, with Kenya learning from the technologies that have made Sudan one of the lowest-cost producers in the world.
According to a statement issued after the meeting, Kenyatta said he wanted to see an agreement for Kenya to learn from Sudan on expanded cotton farming come to fruition, because it was at the base of a plan to increase textiles and apparels manufacturing under the President’s Big Four agenda of manufacturing, affordable housing, universal healthcare and food security.
African delegates are planning to boycott United States President Donald Trump’s closing speech at the World Economic Forum’s flagship annual meeting in Davos on Friday. This follows leaks that he called African countries “shitholes” in a White House meeting on immigration this month.
Trump arrives in Davos on Thursday where he will concentrate on boosting trade and business links between the US and other countries as part of his “America First” agenda, according to members of his cabinet who briefed the press. Trump will also meet Swiss President Alain Berset in Davos.
But he may not receive as warm a reception as he would like from other quarters.
Business Leadership Africa CEO Bonang Mohale, a Davos attendee, penned an open letterexternal link before the WEF meeting, urging people to turn their backs on Trump when he arrives at WEF.
Donald Trump will be the star at Davos. Love or hate him, he’s likely to be the only head of state whose speech will be broadcast live on all the news channels.
Reporters will grill the president on immigration and his alleged “shitholes” slur (he denies saying it), as well as whatever else he tweets between now and the start of the summit on Tuesday.
But for Africans, there are more interesting stories that will play out at this year’s World Economic Forum, with more at stake for the continent than at any time since 1992 when Mandela, de Klerk and Buthelezi shared the stage and laid a blueprint for the change that followed.
Davos will be the first outing for Emmerson Mnangagwa since he replaced Robert Mugabe in November.
The US, EU, Australia and a raft of other countries still have limits on trade with Harare, from weapons to state contracts. But magic can happen, like Barack Obama’s handshake with Raul Castro in 2013 at the funeral of Nelson Mandela. Eighteen months later, the US reopened its embassy in Cuba after a break of 44 years.
Zimbabwe: Beyond the rhetoric of free and fair elections
by SHOWERS MAWOWA (Deputy Director, Southern Africa Liaison Office (SALO).
- 24 JAN 2018 12:38 (SOUTH AFRICA)
Promises by President Emmerson Mnangagwa of economic reform in Zimbabwe have been accompanied by swift action. The scrapping of the controversial indigenisation law, a three-month amnesty for return of externalised money and assets, several high-profile arrests of those accused of corruption (though so far concentrating on opponents within Zanu-PF), reappointment of the respected Auditor General Mildred Chisi, allocation of specific deliverables to ministers within a 100-day cycle, high-level visits to neighbouring countries to, among other things, meet with Zimbabwe’s diaspora business community, and announcements of million-dollar investment deals, are but a few examples. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been renamed Foreign Affairs and International Trade with the pursuit of economic interests as a key mandate.
In contrast, however, the promise of a democratic dispensation is yet to be followed up by equally enthusiastic and decisive action. This has prompted some to postulate that the new government might follow a Chinese or Rwandan model, an efficient state that delivers services and economic growth but one that is not necessarily democratic. It has also been suggested that given the comatose state of Zimbabwe’s economy and the extent of economic desperation, the bread and butter has become so central that Zimbabweans care less about civil and political rights – at least in the short to medium term.
The allusion to China and Rwanda misses contextual differences with Zimbabwe’s new dispensation. It also fails to appreciate the intricately entwined nature of Zimbabwe’s crisis encompassing the political and economic, this not only in objective terms but as reflected in the demands by civil society over the past two decades. Notably, in spite of Mnangagwa’s insistence on “letting bygones be bygones”, cries for redress of past human rights violations have got louder and impossible to ignore. In the words of Zimbabweans, what was most exciting about the November mass protest in support of the coup was not only the prospect of a new economic order, but the very act of protesting freely. In fact, some expressed scepticism, and continue to do so, about what a new order might entail but relished the freedom to speak out – even for a day.
Restoration of full state legitimacy, a priority for the new government, cannot happen without both economic and political reforms at least in the eyes of the citizenry and the international community. This, I argue, is something that Zimbabwe’s new government is fully aware of.
In my December article, I suggested that on balance, in comparison to his predecessor, Zimbabwe’s new president seems to be pursuing the politics of persuasion. In the few weeks of his leadership, he has portrayed himself as a statesman, visiting opposition leader and former prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai who is currently battling colon cancer at his home, and promising to restore his privileges which were unceremoniously taken away by the Mugabe government. In an interview with the Financial Times, Mnangagwa, in another significant departure from the Mugabe years, has invited the UN and EU (and even the Commonwealth) to observe the upcoming elections. The Zimbabwe state media have covered ad nauseum Mnangagwa’s wife visiting hospitals, female prisoners, orphanages and feeding the homeless, among other things, undoubtedly to portray a brand totally different from former first lady Grace Mugabe.
It is therefore clear that Mnangagwa wants to write his own script, no doubt partly motivated by the quest for domestic, regional and international legitimacy. But is he prepared to go all the way, or is he seeking minimalist compliance to placate domestic, regional and international opinion? Below are some of the areas that require urgent attention if the promise of a free and fair election in Zimbabwe is to materialise. In addition, the SADC, whose role in the past has been questioned, has an opportunity to restore credibility as far as management of elections is concerned.
- One of the most controversial elements of Zimbabwe’s 2013 elections, though largely violence-free, pertains to the accessibility of the voter’s roll. In 2013 the voter’s roll was made available to the opposition only a day before the election, making it impossible to verify and raise queries before the election. It was in hard copy, making it difficult to analyse and share. It has been alleged that upon scrutiny, the roll contained some shocking irregularities, such as over a million invalid names, and it excluded about a million voters mostly from opposition strongholds. By the Zimbabwe Election Commission’s own admission, over 300,000 voters were turned away on voting day. Zimbabwe is currently carrying out a new biometric voter registration exercise which will address some of these problems. However, given past experience, civil society calls for the roll to be made accessible to all and subject to an independent audit must be heeded.
- The role of media, particularly state media, is crucial in levelling the playing field for contestants during an election. In its post-Zimbabwe-2013-Election assessment report, the SADC Elections Observer Mission raised concerns about the biased conduct of state media. It recommended that the Zimbabwe Election Commission should implement provisions of the new constitution of Zimbabwe dealing with media reforms as well as sections of the Electoral Act requiring free and fair coverage of all political contestants during elections. This situation has not changed. The 2017 media freedom ranking by the international media watch dog, Reporters Without Border place Zimbabwe 128th out of 180 countries. Reasons cited for the poor ranking include oppressive media legislation and harassment of journalists.
Another perennial concern of civil society and opposition is the independence of key state institutions. The 2013 constitution provides for the independence of the judiciary and the Zimbabwe Election Commission. Security forces, namely, military, intelligence and police, and traditional authorities, are required to be non-partisan. These institutions have a history of partisanship towards Zanu-PF to differing degrees. The appointment of the new head of the Zimbabwe Election Commission will be watched carefully. Traditional chiefs are often accused of frog-marching villagers to vote for Zanu-PF and barring the opposition from campaigning. During his recent meeting with chiefs, Mnangagwa’s message of tolerance and free political activity was undermined by partisan statements at the very same meeting by the leader of the council of chiefs.
Of all state institutions, the security forces are the biggest concern. The reform of police and intelligence, infamous for the torture and disappearances of Zanu-PF political opponents, will form one of the main tests for the new government. The military coup, it must be remembered, was the culmination of a history of military involvement in the political affairs of the nation and Zanu-PF as a political party. The military is not neutral, and in fact sees itself as the custodian of Zanu-PF, and stands accused of violence and intimidation against opposition supporters. The new political dispensation has if anything strengthened the hand of the military in the country’s politics as evinced by the appointment of senior generals in key party and government posts. Reports of some senior figures within Zanu-PF stating that they will work with the military in “campaigning” for the 2018 election raise serious concerns. While the period between now and the elections is too short for full reforms, it is yet to be seen whether the new political leadership will call on these institutions to be neutral.
Intricately linked to the role of key state institutions is the urgent need for the repealing of draconian legislation such as the Public Order and Security Act and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and aligning laws with the 2013 constitution. The Public Order and Security Act, very similar to the infamous colonial Law and Order Maintenance Act, has been used to bar opposition gatherings and protests and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act has been used to suppress free speech. Both are inconsistent with the freedoms of assembly and expression as provided for by the 2013 constitution. Zimbabwe’s main electoral act remains largely unaligned to the new constitution. Despite calls by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, groups such as the diaspora and prisoners remain excluded from voting. Logistical impossibility has been cited as the main reason, though this has not been proven empirically. The commitment to a free and fair election, if genuine, could, at the least, be followed by actual steps to repeal the three laws cited above and align them with the constitution. This represents low hanging fruit if the new government wishes to demonstrate will to level the political playing field.
The likelihood however is that Zimbabwe will go into elections without most of the reforms envisaged by the new constitution, recommended by the past observer mission reports and the electoral road map facilitated by South Africa under the Global Political Agreement – potentially setting the stage for another contested outcome. Despite the positive rhetoric from the top, Zimbabwe’s path to democracy remains uncertain.
A thorough and impartial election observation will therefore be critical as demanded by Zimbabwe civil society. SADC’s role in particular will be important. After generously accepting the military-led change, SADC could at least insist on a free and fair election for the full restoration of legitimacy.
Yet in no other country has SADC’s role been questioned more than in Zimbabwe. There is a view that SADC allowed Mugabe to get away with electoral fraud and failed to uphold standards. It is not surprising that during the military coup, news of SADC’s planned intervention was not well received by the Zimbabwe public. Now that Mugabe is gone, will SADC act in a way that is seen to be impartial?
Zimbabwe’s 2018 elections will be observed under the revised SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections. The new guideline has raised the bar somewhat in terms of the electoral management process, providing for long-term observation of the elections, a post-election review process, more oversight for the SADC Electoral Advisory Council and enforcement mechanism for non-compliant states. Long-term observation entails early deployment of observers, up to three months before the election. This is consistent with one of the key asks of the Zimbabwe civil society focused on elections.
SADC’s approach is centred mostly on pre-empting election violence by making use of early warning and mediation. However, as Zimbabwe’s 2013 election demonstrated, a violence-free election does not negate the possibility of covert forms of intimidation, structural forms of unevenness and, in fact, subtle rigging. Several surveys point to the dominance of the fear factor in Zimbabwean politics which will take a long time to undo. Early deployment and long-term observation may assist in detecting and addressing some of these below-the-surface dynamics.
While there are positive messages from Zimbabwe’s new president, the region and Zimbabwe’s civil society have a role to play in calling for actual action. Without actual reforms, much depends on political will, making for a fragile transition. The quest for legitimacy might have incentivised a more open kind of politics but the 2018 election will show the political trajectory Zimbabwe is on. DM
Dr Showers Mawowa is a Deputy Director at the Southern African Liaison Office (SALO) a Regional Policy Research and Dialogue Organisation based in South Africa and member of the International Experts Panel (IEP) at the Open Government Partnership’s (OGP) Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM). He writes in his personal capacity.
SALO’s heart goes out to Lineo’s close family and friends particularly her son Bokamoso, her mother, three sisters Rethabile, Thato and Puseletso.
Obituary: Lineo J. Chabana (1988 – 2018)
Ms Lineo Chabana was born in Matatiele on 21 January 1988 to Gerald and Flora Chabana and was the second of four siblings.
She completed her primary schooling at King Edward (Matatiele), and proceeded with her high school education at St Barnabas College, in Johannesburg, where she completed her Matric.
She obtained her BA Honours in Public Management at the University of Johannesburg, and was finalizing her Masters in Diplomatic Studies at the University of Pretoria.
Lineo assumed duty at the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) on 01 August 2014, as a Research Assistant (Assistant Director) in the Minister’s Office. She later joined the Directorate: Politics, Governance, Peace and Security Research (formerly known as PRAU) where she served until her passing on 13 January 2018.
As Colleagues we honour her positive legacy as a dedicated foreign service officer and the exemplary manner in which she served and promoted our country’s national interests.
She will be sorely missed by her son Bokamoso, her mother, three sisters Rethabile, Thato and Puseletso, extended family, friends and colleagues.
Robala ka khotso MaMohlakoane
Lineo was a former SALO staff member.
Poem taken from memorial service programme:
Missing you always
You never said I’m leaving
You never said goodbye
You were gone before we knew it
And no one knows why.
A million times I needed you
A million times I’ve cried
if love alone could have saved you
you never would have died
In life I loved you dearly
In death I love you still
In my heart I hold a place
that only you can fill.
Democratic Republic of Congo
The United Nations announced Tuesday it will investigate the death of 39 Burundian refugees in clashes with soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo in September.
The soldiers allegedly opened fire on the refugees in eastern South Kivu province after they protested the detention of a small group of Burundians by Congolese authorities.
Nigerian Lieutenant-General Chikadibia Isaac Obiakor will lead the UN investigation of the violence on September 15 in Kamanyola, said a UN statement.
In a stark warning, three UN agencies – the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP) – say time is running out to save hundreds of thousands of lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Farmers – who fled due to conflict – have missed three consecutive planting seasons. This has left people with almost nothing to eat. Food assistance is failing to fill the gap. Only 400,000 out of the 3.2 million severely food insecure people in Kasai received assistance in December. More than 750,000 are still displaced. Around 630,000 people have returned to their burned down villages after hiding in the forest, they must be helped to resume food production. Over ninety percent of rural communities depend entirely on agriculture.
“Agriculture is the only way to become productive again. Not only does it generate food and income for families, but it restores hope, dignity and self-reliance”, said Alexis Bonte, FAO Representative ad interim in the DRC.
Somalia’s Islamist militant group al Shabaab on Thursday denied that it was threatening and abducting civilians to hand over their children for indoctrination and military training.
Al Shabaab has been fighting for years to topple Somalia’s central government and rule the Horn of Africa country according to its own interpretation of Islamic law.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Monday that the armed group began ordering elders and teachers in rural parts of the southern Bay region in mid-2017 to provide them with children – as young as eight – or face reprisals.
But an al Shabaab spokesman told the Thomson Reuters Foundation the group does not recruit members below the age of 15, and that no one is forced to join. He said children were being sent to Islamic religious schools to be educated.
The 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan for Somalia, which calls for $1.6 billion to protect the lives of 5.4 million Somalis, was launched today by the Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, Peter de Clercq.
In his remarks, De Clercq said: “Working together with the Somali authorities and with historical levels of support from the international community, I am proud that we averted a possible famine last year.
“Lasting solutions to drought, conflict and displacement remain, however, out of our reach, and much more must be done to eliminate the looming threat of famine in this country. We must tackle the humanitarian needs while simultaneously looking at longer-term solutions. If we do not continue to save lives and in parallel build resilience, then we have only delayed a famine, not prevented one,” warned de Clercq.
Central African Republic
The United Nations Mission in the troubled Central African Republic, known by its French acronym, MINUSCA, has given armed groups in the north of the country 48 hours to clear out.
The Mission wants to clear a 50 kilometre perimeter around the town allowing displaced persons to return.
Over the last three weeks, some 60,000 people – mostly women – left everything behind to escape clashes between the armed groups Justice Riot (RJ) and the National Movement for the Liberation of the Central African Republic (MNLC).
The UN says some 100 000 people in the Central African Republic city of Paoua urgently need humanitarian aid following clashes between armed groups.
UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said on Monday that over 60 000 people have taken refuge in the city near the border with Chad as a result of the fighting and 40 000 live there.
Dujarric said “should armed groups continue clashing and attack other villages, the number of displaced people in Paoua could potentially double or triple.”
Sudanese police fired tear gas, struck demonstrators with batons and arrested several people at a protest against soaring living costs in the centre of Khartoum on Tuesday.
Several hundred demonstrators gathered on a street near the presidential palace, chanting slogans against rising prices and calling for a change of government before clashes broke out, a Reuters reporter said.
Protests and clashes with security forces broke out across the country early this month after Khartoum imposed tough economic measures in line with recommendations by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Authorities in Sudan have seized copies of newspapers and arrested several reporters over articles on “anti-inflation protests” prompting calls from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) against the harassment.
“Sudanese authorities should cease harassing and arresting journalists and confiscating newspapers, and should allow journalists to report on matters of public interest without fear of reprisal,” the CPJ said on Friday.
The Sudanese Journalists Network (SJN) said on Tuesday and Wednesday Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) arrested seven journalists while they were reporting on anti-inflation protests in Khartoum.
Rebels in South Sudan have accused mediators of allowing the government to violate the recent cease-fire, an allegation the top mediator quickly rejected Thursday.
A rebel spokesman accused the regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development bloc and the “troika” countries of Norway, Britain and the United States of turning a blind eye to violations by South Sudan’s first vice president, Taban Deng Gai.
Colonel Lam Paul Gabriel said in a statement that IGAD and the troika allowed Gai to travel to Jonglei state, “where he is causing more destruction and displacement to civilians in the areas under the control of SPLM-IO” — the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in-Opposition.
Voice of America
The United Nations says violence against aid workers in South Sudan reached a new high in 2017, with 28 killed.
Nearly half of the 1 159 humanitarian access incidents reported last year by aid agencies involved violence including killing, looting and threats.
The UN humanitarian office calls the trend “indicative of increasingly difficult times for aid workers in the country.” It says the trend continues even after President Salva Kiir in November ordered unimpeded movement for aid groups.
South Sudan’s civil war, now in its fifth year, has killed tens of thousands and plunged parts of the country into famine. Two million people have fled the country.
Demonstrations in Morocco’s Rif region, the most sustained street protests the country has seen since the Arab uprisings of 2011, showed the limits to Morocco’s tolerance of free speech and the right of peaceful assembly, Human Rights Watch said today in releasing its World Report 2018. Morocco should release all imprisoned peaceful protesters and abolish penal code provisions that allow the government to jail people for expressing their views.
Protests began in the restive northern Rif region in October 2016. The authorities tolerated the protests for several months, but violently detained protest leaders in May 2017 and banned a major rally announced for July. Since then the government has imprisoned journalists and others for participating in, or supporting, “illegal” demonstrations.
Authorities frequently tolerated protests held in front of parliament in Rabat and elsewhere, but almost never in Morocco-controlled Western Sahara, where police came out in force to pre-empt any gathering deemed sympathetic to self-determination for that disputed territory.
Human Rights Watch
The European Union’s fisheries deal with Morocco should be declared invalid because it includes Western Sahara, an adviser to the EU’s top court said on Wednesday in the latest legal opinion on trade ties involving the disputed territory.
Western Sahara has been contested since 1975 when Spanish colonial powers left. Morocco claimed the territory as it own and fought the 16-year war with the Polisario Front independence movement which established its self-declared Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.
The United Nations says the region has a right to self-determination and campaigners have sought to challenge the EU’s trade deals with Morocco in the courts because they include the desert region.
Wednesday’s opinion by the European Union Court of Justice’s Advocate General Melchior Wathelet came in response to British-based campaigners who said Britain was wrong to uphold the EU-Morocco fisheries deal. Britain asked the ECJ for advice.
Civil liberties in Swaziland have deteriorated in the past year, a leading global freedom group has reported.
Freedom House reported, ‘Swaziland’s civil liberties rating declined from five to six due to increased government infringements on religious freedom and freedom of private discussion.’
The organisation said this in the Freedom in the World 2018 report just released. On a scale from one to seven where seven is the least free, Swaziland scored 6.5 on freedom; seven on political rights and six on civil liberties. It scored 16 out of 100 in total and Freedom House reported Swaziland was ‘not free’.
It has yet to release a detailed report on human rights in Swaziland for the past year. Swaziland is ruled by King Mswati III as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
Swazi editor Zweli Martin Dlamini has fled to neighbouring South Africa after he received death threats. He had written a story about absolute monarch King Mswati III’s shady dealings in the telecommunications industry, writes Kenworthy News Media.
Last June, editor of independent business newspaper Swaziland Shopping Zweli Martin Dlamini wrote and published a story about new telecommunications company Swazi Mobile, owned by King Mswati III and run by local businessman Victor Gamedze.
The punchline of the story was that the pair had forced Swaziland’s government to side-line rival government parastatal company SPTC from competing with Swazi Mobile – a new company that they and other high-ranking officials, including the Prime Minister, owns shares in.
Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa has announced that the country will hold elections in five months, the first poll the southern African state since independence that does not involve former President Robert Mugabe.
Mnangagwa said that he had no doubt that the vote would go ahead peacefully, according to the state daily, The Herald.
“We will ensure that Zimbabwe delivers free, credible, fair and indisputable elections to ensure Zimbabwe engages the world as a qualified democratic state,” he said.
Mugabe, who was one of the longest serving leaders in the world, was forced out of office late November by the army.
The call comes at a time when President Emmerson Mnangagwa‚ whose ascendance to power is credited to the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF)‚ told Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi in Maputo on Wednesday that elections would be held in about five months’ time and be peaceful.
However‚ the MDCT is worried about developments at home with allegations that military personnel in civilian clothing have been deployed to rural areas‚ home to 65% of the population in Zimbabwe.
“We have solid and incontrovertible evidence pointing to the fact that thousands of army officers in civilian attire have been deployed into the countryside for the purpose of carrying out clandestine political campaigns on behalf of Zanu PF‚” the party said.
The party also made an open plea that international election observers such as the United Nations be allowed into the country.
Africa in General
The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has expressed solidarity with the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in their struggle “to rid themselves of the repressive regime of President Joseph Kabila”.
In a Thursday press release, the union stated: “Numsa condemns Kabila and his administration for the brutality and violence which has been meted out against the people of that country. He has no legitimacy and therefore has no right to govern.”
The organisation demanded that Kabila be removed immediately and that all political prisoners be released.
“There is no doubt that Kabila’s regime is cruel and ruthless. The UN Mission in the DRC has documented over 700 violations across the country in October last year, including extra judicial killings and rape,” Numsa said. “Mass graves have also been discovered in the town of Nganza where its alleged that government forces went door-to-door massacring entire families in March last year.”
Numsa added: “He must be relegated to the dustbin of history along with other dictators, which is where he belongs! Numsa demands an end to the war of terror which the administration of Kabila has unleashed on the citizenry of the DRC.
“We first heard gunshots. Then we saw the horses arrive, each carrying two or three men, armed with Kalashnikovs, rifles, bows and arrows,” Charles Tombe says.
“They shot at everyone — we fled into the bush. There are corpses over there, rotting.”
Tombe, 52, ran a small medical centre, which he said was burned down along with all the other houses after the village of Bekoro Misso was looted.
He is one of numerous eyewitnesses AFP interviewed about militia violence that has erupted in northwest Central African Republic, sapping hopes of stabilising a dirt-poor, fragile state.
Tombe and thousands of others have sought refuge in the small dusty town of Paoua. Many survivors recount nightmarish stories of gunfire and machete attacks.
Founding Movement for Democratic Change treasurer Roy Bennett died in a helicopter crash in a remote area of the US state of New Mexico, authorities said Thursday.
Bennett was killed along with his wife Heather and three other people after the helicopter went down on Wednesday, New Mexico state police said.
A crash survivor called 911 for help but could not say where in the mountainous region the wreckage was located. After a frantic search the crash was found ablaze at a ranch about 10 miles east of the town of Raton.
State police officers at the scene “reported the helicopter wreckage had been engulfed in fire making identification difficult,” the NMSP statement read but confirmed that Bennett, 60, and his 55-year-old wife were among the victims.
With condemnations of US President Donald Trump from African leaders continuing, the collective of African ambassadors to the UN has described his remarks as outrageous, racist and xenophobic.
This comes after Trump questioned why the US would accept more immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador or countries in Africa using a vulgar term to describe them.
The US president reportedly made the remarks at a White House meeting on immigration last week.
The ambassadors are demanding an apology and retraction of the remarks from Trump.
Ghanaian ambassador to the UN Martha Pobee speaks on behalf of the African ambassadors.
“The African ambassadors are extremely appalled and strongly condemns the remakes attributed to the president of America.”
US Ambassador Nikki Haley told African envoys on Thursday that “Africa is very important for the United States”, but she didn’t apologise for President Donald Trump’s vulgar comment about the continent as they had demanded, the chair of the African Group said.
Equatorial Guinea’s UN ambassador, Anatolio Ndong Mba, told two reporters after the closed meeting requested by Haley that “we do hope that that (apology) will come”, perhaps from Trump to African leaders at their summit in Ethiopia on January 28-29.
Ndong Mba said the 54-nation African Group at the United Nations gave Haley a “specific recommendation” but he refused to disclose it. Other diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorised to speak publicly, said it was to have Trump send a message to leaders at the summit.