News Briefs 02 October 2020

Central African Republic

Central African Republic: elections are ‘unique opportunity’ for peace – Guterres

“The coming period will be decisive for the country”, António Guterres told a high-level meeting on the country, held on Thursday.  His remarks were shared after the meeting, which was held behind closed doors.

“The presidential, legislative and local elections represent a unique opportunity for national reconciliation and the consolidation of peace, as well as the country’s constitutional order and democratic achievements.”

A UN peacekeeping operation has been in the CAR since 2014 following intercommunal violence, largely between a mainly Muslim coalition known as Séléka, and a mostly Christian alliance, commonly referred to as the Anti-Balaka.  

Despite an agreement signed last year between the Government and 14 armed groups, the CAR continues to suffer violence and human rights abuses. Ongoing humanitarian and development needs, which have increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic, also remain an urgent priority.

UN News 01 October 2020

Growing Fears Human Rights Violations Could Undermine CAR Elections

A U.N. independent expert warns growing human rights violations by armed groups in the Central African Republic risk undermining the December 27 election of the country’s president and National Assembly.

The investigator has submitted a searing report of the human rights situation in the CAR to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Yao Agbetse’s report documents an extensive and growing litany of violations that affect every segment of the Central African Republic. Agbetse said armed groups, who have signed a peace agreement to end the country’s long-running civil war, are responsible for the overwhelming number of human rights violations.

Voice of America 02 October 2020

Zimbabwe

Weapons smuggled into Zimbabwe, says Mnangagwa, warning country is ‘under siege’

Zimbabwe’s security and stability is at risk as the main opposition and civil society stoke unrest, National Security Minister Owen Ncube told reporters in the capital, Harare on Monday.

The main opposition, Movement for Democratic Change, civil society organizations, churches and Western countries are among the “internal and external” threats working to unconstitutionally topple President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government, he said. The state is also aware of plans to smuggle guns into the country to arm militia groups.

Zimbabwe is “under siege,” Ncube added. “We are watching the environment very closely.”

Zimbabwe’s two-decade economic collapse has deepened with inflation at more than 750% and the country’s currency collapsing. Public anger over intolerable living conditions spurred protest action that’s been brutally quashed by the military.

BizNews 21 September 2020

Zimbabwe president questions foreign observer role in elections

Southern African countries should consider holding their general elections without the presence of international observers, Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa said.

Hosting a state dinner for visiting Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera, Mnangagwa said Malawi was a country that had held “harmonised presidential elections without foreign observers.” Elections were held without the United Nations, the Southern African Development Community and civil society organisations observing, “but they were successful, peaceful elections conducted by Malawi on its own,” he said.

“This makes us think whether it’s still necessary in future for SADC countries to look for supervision from across oceans,” Mnangagwa said.

Chakwera, who was elected president in June, is on a two-day visit to Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is due to hold general elections in 2023.

Moneyweb 01 October 2020

eSwatini

Swaziland Army Investigates After Video Showing ‘Soldiers Whipping Civilians’ Goes Viral

The Swaziland (eSwatini) Army has started an investigation after video that appeared to show two soldiers whipping two civilians circulated widely on social media.

The 30-second video shows two men laying on the ground while one is whipped with what appears to be a branch of a tree. It is reported the assault went on for several minutes.

There is some confusion as to the role soldiers took. In some accounts the two men doing the whipping are soldiers and in others it is said soldiers who are not seen on the video but whose voices are heard were the soldiers.

According to a later report in the Times of eSwatini the incident is believed to have happened in an area near Matsamo on Saturday (26 September 2020), close to the border with South Africa.

AllAfrica 29 September 2020

Democratic Republic of Congo

WHO to investigate allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse in Ebola response in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The World Health Organization, leadership and staff, are outraged by recent reports of alleged sexual exploitation and abuse in the context of the Ebola response in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The actions allegedly perpetrated by individuals identifying themselves as working for WHO are unacceptable and will be robustly investigated.

The betrayal of people in the communities we serve is reprehensible. We do not tolerate such behaviour in any of our staff, contractors or partners.

Anyone identified as being involved will be held to account and face serious consequences, including immediate dismissal.

WHO 29 September 2020

Nobel-winner Mukwege calls for justice in DR Congo bloodshed

Nobel Peace laureate Denis Mukwege was expected to join protests on Thursday demanding justice for decades of rapes and killings in the east of his native Democratic Republic of Congo.

The gynecologist and surgeon received death threats earlier this year for campaigning for rights abuses committed during the two Congo Wars, between 1996-98 and 1998-2003, and the following bloodshed that still afflicts the country’s east.

But that has not stopped Mukege passionately speaking out ahead of planned protests in several towns, including Bukavu, the capital of South Kivu province where he runs his Panzi Hospital to treat thousands of victims of rape.

The protests will mark the 10th anniversary of a United Nations report that outlined “the most serious human rights violations” surrounding the two wars.

CGTN Africa 01 October 2020

Somalia

A soldier has been sentenced to death in Somalia for raping a four-year-old girl

Somalia’s military court has sentenced a soldier to death after he was found guilty of raping a four-year-old girl. The soldier, identified as Mohammed Hussein Elmi, confessed to raping the girl in May this year. According to documents presented at the Mogadishu court, the soldier lived next door to the girl’s family in Wadajir district in the capital, Mogadishu. 

The chief of the military court, Colonel Hussan Ali Shute, said the court’s verdict was based on evidence, adding that the convict can appeal against the decision if he was not satisfied with the death sentence.

In August this year, two Somali soldiers in the southwestern town of Baidoa were executed by firing squad after they confessed to raping an 11-year-old boy. The soldiers, identified as Liban Hassan Amin, 29, and Farhan Abdulkadir Abdi, 23, were accused of raping the boy in July.

Face2Face Africa 02 October 2020

Somalia sets election dates, doubles candidates fees

Somalia has published its electoral calendar, setting the presidential election for next year.

The announcement on Thursday night followed an agreement between President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo and the federal state leaders to retain the clan-based system of delegate voting in the elections.

The presidential election will now take place on February 8, 2021, preceded by parliamentary elections that will be held from December 1 to December 27 this year.

Members of Parliament in the Lower House, also known as the House of the People, will be elected through delegates nominated by clan elders in conjunction with the electoral body.

Voting for the MPs will take place from December 10 to 27, preceded by the election of members of the Upper House, the Senate, which will be held from December 1 to 10.

The East African 02 October 2020

Sudan

Sudan and major rebel groups to formalise peace deal

Three major groups signed a preliminary deal in August – two factions from the western region of Darfur and one from the southern region – after months of peace talks hosted by neighbouring South Sudan.

Another powerful rebel group, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North led by Abdelaziz al-Hilu, which had not participated in initial peace negotiations, agreed last month to hold new talks hosted by South Sudan.

Tut Gatluak, the South Sudanese chief mediator, told Reuters ahead of Saturday’s ceremony in Juba that the goal is to sign deals with all armed groups.

“The parties will sign their final agreement … and from there, we shall continue engaging with the other holdout groups of general Al-Hilu and Al-Noor,” he told Reuters on Friday.

Reuters 02 October 2020

UN Human Rights Council Should Continue Scrutiny of Sudan

Now in its second year of a three-year transition, Sudan faces enormous challenges.

Protests have continued across the country over lack of progress on accountability and reform. In some instances, government forces used lethal violence to disperse them, including in Darfur where security forces continued to arbitrarily detain activists without charge.

Darfur and eastern Sudan have seen a surge in violence, including inter-communal conflicts that erupted in July and August resulting in scores killed and injured, and thousands displaced. Security forces have responded with excessive use of force.

Reform has come slowly. Authorities have yet to appoint the legislative council or key commissions on human rights and transitional justice as envisioned under constitutional charter. In July, the government passed key legal reforms such as criminalization of female genital mutilation, abolishing the crime of apostasy, and removing arrest and detention power from the security services. But there is still a long way to go.

Human Rights Watch 02 October 2020

South Sudan

UNMISS Chief: South Sudan Peace Process Limping Along

A top U.N. official says South Sudan’s peace process is limping along and faces serious challenges that could lead to a further escalation in violence. David Shearer, the special representative of the U.N. Secretary General in South Sudan (UNMISS) told reporters in Juba Tuesday urgent action is needed to put the peace process back on track.

“The cabinet is meeting irregularly, and people tell me that they want to see the president and vice presidents meeting and working closely together more often. The transitional National Legislative Assembly is yet to be reconstituted, so necessary new laws are not being passed and progress on the constitution has been delayed. Critically, there has been almost no movement on the areas of security sector reform,” said Shearer.

The UNMISS boss, who recently returned to Juba from New York, where he briefed the U.N. Security Council on the situation in South Sudan, said military forces that were supposed to be trained, unified, and deployed are losing hope and have started deserting the country’s training centers.

Voice of America 30 September 2020

UN grants S.Sudan 5,000 radio for distance learning

South Sudan received 5,000 solar radio sets Thursday from the United Nation Children Funds (UNICEF) to help with a distance learning program for students.

“We are grateful that we are able to get this donation from UNICEF to strengthen distance learning program,” Minister of General Education and Instruction Awut Deng Acuil told reporters while receiving the donation in Juba.

“It has limitations but with this radio, I think the recording of lessons will take place and will reach all the villages where the majority of our children are.”

Acuil said UNICEF has been a strategic partner during the liberation struggle, noting the relationship between the government and the children’s agency dates to the time when war was being waged for the liberation of South Sudan.

UNICEF country’s representative Mohamed Ag Ayoya said the agency will continue to support the Ministry of General Education and Instruction in rolling out plans and protocols for reopening schools.

Anadolu Agency 01 October 2020

Western Sahara

Is Western Sahara a no-go for trademark protection?

Western Sahara is an Atlantic-coastal desert area of 266,000km2, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, Morocco, Algeria and Mauritania. A former Spanish colony, it has been on the the United Nations (UN) list of non-self-governing territories since 1965 along with 17 other territories.

‘Non-self-governing territories’ are defined as “territories whose people have not yet attained a full measure of self-government” according to Chapter XI of the UN Charter.

The reasons for a region to be declared a non-self-governing vary and are specific to each territory. In the case of Western Sahara, this is mainly due to the fact that it is a disputed territory between the Saharawi people, led by the Polisario Front, which self-proclaimed it the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) in 1976, and Morocco, which annexed two-thirds of the country in 1975 after the withdrawal of Spain.

Many governments recognise the SADR and it is a full member of the African Union. However, Morocco sees Western Sahara as part of its historic territory and continues to claim control of the region. This contradiction of positions resulted in an armed conflict, which ceased after UN intervention in the 2000s. At that moment, Morocco agreed to hold a referendum on Western Saharan independence, but this is yet to take place. As a result, the legal status of the territory and the question of its sovereignty remain unresolved.

Lexology 24 september 2020

Human rights organizations remind of more than 400 cases in Western Sahara still missing

The Sahrawi National Commission for Human Rights, along with 240 human rights organizations, have reminded the UN Working Group against Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances of more than 400 Sahrawis who have been missing since the invasion and military occupation of Western Sahara by the Kingdom of Morocco.

In an oral statement during the 45th Ordinary Session of Human Rights, the organizations said that although the Kingdom of Morocco ratified the International Convention to Protect People from Enforced Disappearance adopted in 2006 by the United Nations, it has not yet submitted its first report to the Committee on Enforced Disappearances.

The statement added that the UN Working Group against Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances continues to receive reports of reprisals against the families of victims, human rights defenders and supporting organizations in the occupied areas of Western Sahara, a non-self-governing territory, according to the United Nations General Assembly.

The human rights organizations also called on the UN Working Group against Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances to seriously consider a field visit to the territory of Western Sahara, which is under Moroccan occupation.

Sahara Press Service 29 September 2020