News Briefs 03 December 2020

eSwatini

Eswatini PM moved to S.Africa for COVID-19 treatment

The prime minister of Eswatini, a landlocked country in Southern Africa, has been shifted to neighboring South Africa for COVID-19 treatment, an official said in a statement late Tuesday.

Ambrose Dlamini, 52, contracted the novel virus on Nov. 16.

“Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini is responding well to the treatment,” Deputy Prime Minister Themba Masuku said, adding that his health condition remains stable. “To guide and fast track the recovery, a decision has been taken that he be transferred to a South African hospital this afternoon.”

Formerly known as Swaziland, Eswatini is a small nation ruled by King Mswati III. It is one of the few remaining monarchies in the continent, known for preserving its culture.

The country, which has just over 1.1 million people, has so far registered 6,442 coronavirus cases, including 122 deaths and 6,017 recoveries, according to the US’ Johns Hopkins University.

Anadolu Agency 3 December 2020

Activist network fumes as Eswatini PM moved to SA hospital for Covid-19 treatment

The Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Eswatini who for the past few weeks has been battling to overcome Covid-19, has been transferred to an undisclosed South African hospital.

Ambrose Dlamini had previously been transferred to a Lubombo referral hospital in the east of the kingdom designated to cater for Covid-19 patients.

However, in a sudden twist on Tuesday afternoon, Dlamini’s deputy, Themba Masuku announced that Dlamini has been moved to an undisclosed South African health facility.

Masuku said Dlamini is recovering but they decided to move him to South Africa so that he could get better care.

“Government wishes to update the nation that His Excellency the Prime Minister Mandvulo Ambrose Dlamini is responding well to treatment after contracting Covid-19 and remains stable. To guide and fasttrack his recovery, a decision has since been taken that he be transferred to a South African hospital this afternoon.

IOL 1 December 2020

UN Worried as DR Congo Struggles with Political Crisis

The United Nations has sounded a warning about a brewing political crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where a long-running impasse between President Felix Tshisekedi and supporters of his predecessor Joseph Kabila has reached a crucial point.

In a report to the UN Security Council on Monday, Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he was “concerned by the political tensions within the ruling coalition.”

These “could undermine the fragile political stability, reverse the gains made since the 2018 elections and the resulting peaceful transfer of power, as well as divert efforts to address security challenges” in the east of the vast country, he warned.

The report, obtained by AFP on Wednesday, coincided with a video circulating on social media in which the head of DR Congo’s elite Republican Guard – which is tasked with protecting Tshisekedi – orders his men “not to plot against the government.”

EWN 2 December 2020

UNAIDS calls on more to be done for paediatric HIV treatment in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima visited an HIV community village in Kinshasa as part of the World AIDS Day ceremonies in the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She commended the country on its vast experience in responding to pandemics such as Ebola after the country announced the end of the latest Ebola outbreak on 18 November.

“I thank the Congolese government, our friends from civil society and partners who together have enabled the country to respond to its many challenges, particularly HIV, Ebola and now COVID-19,” said Ms Byanyima.

Ms Byanyima stressed that more people in the country need life-saving HIV treatment and that more needs to be done to support women in particular. “Despite considerable progress, only 57% of people living with HIV are on antiretroviral therapy,” Ms Byanyima said. “Coverage of antiretroviral therapy is higher among men (72%) than among women (51%), a real sign of gender inequality.” She added that if women do not feel safe to disclose their HIV status or feel that they will be supported or accepted if they are living with HIV, they will not enrol onto HIV treatment.

UNAIDS 2 December 2020

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe tightens gathering limits as Covid-19 cases rise

Zimbabwe’s government has reintroduced restrictions on gatherings and ordered strict adherence to measures aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus pandemic amid concerns over rising COVID-19 infections in the country.

In a news conference on Tuesday, Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said the number of people allowed to assemble at events of all kinds was reduced to 100.

“[The] cabinet takes this opportunity to call upon all citizens to strictly adhere to COVID-19 protective and preventive guidelines in order to arrest the surge in confirmed cases,” she said.

Authorities had eased restrictions limiting attendance in gatherings after a decline of confirmed new infections in September – but a sudden spike in recent weeks has forced a government rethink.

Aljazeera 2 December 2020

Zimbabwe tables US$5bn budget, with focus on post-Covid tourism, mining, agriculture

Zimbabwe has hinged its budget on a good agricultural season, increased mining revenue and a stable currency.

The country’s finance and economic development minister Prof Mthuli Ncube on Thursday presented his 2021 national budget, which he believes will work if these criteria are met.

He is also pinning hopes on a tourism recovery, which will depend on the Covid-19 pandemic not worsening.

As such, the 2021 budget has an “expenditure ceiling of ZW$421.6bn [US$5.08bn, or R77.33bn]”, he said.

TimesLive 26 November 2020

Central Africa Republic

Central African Republic children work in mines amid Covid-19 lockdowns

Child labour at diamond mines increased by 50% in the months after schools were closed, but some opt for mining over education due to poverty.

Since the coronavirus forced his school to close in March, Papin has been working six days a week at a diamond mine in the Central African Republic (CAR), hauling sacks of mud and rubble under a hot sun.

He is among a dozen children working at the open-pit mine near the southern town of Ngoto, where about 100 miners use shovels and sieves to scour the red earth for diamonds. It is back-breaking work and Papin longs to return to the classroom.

“I came here to help my big brother,” Papin, who said he was 16 but appeared younger, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation as the site supervisor looked on, the few remaining trees offering little respite from the glare. “I prefer school. I prefer to think, here the work is too hard,” said Papin, whose name has been changed to protect his identity.

Business Day 2 December 2020

Old faces, familiar fears: Central African Republic’s tense election

‘Twenty-two months after the signature of the agreement, violence is at a level similar to what it was before.’

Tensions are building ahead of presidential and legislative elections this month in Central African Republic, amid friction between rival candidates and increasing violence by armed groups that still control much of the country despite a peace agreement signed almost two years ago.

Among the candidates who have applied to stand for president on 27 December is former leader François Bozizé, who returned to CAR in late 2019 after six years in exile following his ouster by rebels.

Supporters of the incumbent president, Faustin-Archange Touadéra, claim Bozizé, who is under UN sanctions, cannot stand because he didn’t spend 12 consecutive months in the country prior to submitting his application to run, as is required by law. Bozizé’s team claim he entered CAR via neighbouring Cameroon before the deadline.

The New Humanitarian 1 December 2020

Somalia

Somalia, Int’l Partners Vow to Improve Security

Somalia and international partners wrapped up a day-long high-level meeting in Mogadishu on Tuesday evening by vowing to improve security and the rule of law for the long-term future of the country.

Mohamed H. Roble, prime minister of Somalia, said effective governance of the security sector is not only crucial for stability, but also for the long-term consolidation of democratization and sustainable economic and social development.

“This is the goal of the Federal Government of Somalia. This is the aspiration of the Somali people,” Roble said, according to a joint statement issued on Wednesday.

He reaffirmed the government’s commitment to degrade al-Shabab and disrupt their finance, movement and capabilities.

AllAfrica 2 December 2020

Somalia expels Kenyan envoy in row over alleged poll interference

Somalia has ordered the expulsion of Kenya’s ambassador after accusing neighbouring Kenya of interfering in the electoral process in Jubbaland, one of Somalia’s five semi-autonomous states.

Somalia also recalled its ambassador from Nairobi in the latest dispute between the two African countries.

“As a result of the Kenyan government’s political interferences in the internal affairs of Somalia, the regional President of Jubbaland has reneged on the election agreement that was reached on the 17th September 2020 in Mogadishu,” the Somali foreign ministry said in a statement on Facebook.

The statement did not elaborate on the interference or the agreement the Jubbaland president had reneged on.

This is not the first time there has been tension between Mogadishu and Nairobi.

Aljazeera 30 November 2020

Sudan

UNHCR chief calls for support for Sudan as it hosts Ethiopia refugees

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi on Sunday called for international support for Sudan as the country takes in more than 43,000 refugees who have fled fighting in neighbouring Ethiopia in recent weeks.

Grandi said the decision by the government in Khartoum to receive the refugees, almost half of whom are children, was an example to the international community but the country needed help to bear the additional responsibility.

People from the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia have fled to the Hamdayet border point in eastern Sudan as well as to two other frontier points, one in Kassala State and the other at Lugdi in Gedaref state.

“The best tradition of African and Sudanese hospitality”

But the Khartoum government has identified the Um Raquba site, around 70 km west of the border, as a location for refugees to receive assistance in greater safety. Around 10,000 refugees have already been transported there.

UNHCR 29 November 2020

Sudan’s government gambles over fuel-subsidy cuts — and people pay the price

The cost of living is gradually becoming more unbearable; all prices have doubled, for everything, with the pound losing its value. And now the cost of fuel is increasing significantly. How can I send my children to school this year when the transportation fees increased from 10 000 Sudanese pounds ($40) for the school year to 10 000 a month for a single student, and I have three children in school,” Mohamed Ibrahim, a resident in Khartoum North, told Ayin.

With average incomes in Khartoum at about $100 a month, school transport costs are prohibitively expensive for Ibrahim, despite the fact that he works two separate jobs.

More challenges fell on to civilians’ laps after the transitional government partially cut fuel subsidies on 27 October as part of its attempts to remedy the dire economic situation in the country, where inflation recently surpassed 200%.

Mail& Guardian 24 November 2020

South Sudan

U.N. panel says South Sudan blocking its missions to violence-hit areas

Implementation of South Sudan’s 2018 peace accord has stalled and authorities have blocked humanitarian access to areas where conflict has restarted, the U.N. panel of experts said in a report seen by Reuters on Thursday.

They also said there was a lack of transparency in how the government collected and spent oil and other revenues.

The government disputed the findings, saying agencies had access to all areas and it was working to fix the economy.

Oil-rich South Sudan erupted into civil war soon after securing independence from Sudan in 2011, leading to an estimated 400,000 deaths and one of the worst refugee crises on the continent since the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

A fragile peace accord between President Salva Kiir and former rebel leader Riek Machar was agreed in 2018 and they formed a government of national unity in February, setting the stage for potential peace.

But since then implementation has “mostly stalled, as the signatories have failed to adhere to the deadlines set in the peace agreement and have backtracked on aspects of its political, security and economic provisions,” the panel said.

Thomson Reuters Foundation 3 December 2020

South Sudan: UN arms embargo must be maintained after surge in violence against civilians in 2020

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) must maintain the arms embargo on South Sudan, Amnesty International said today, after confirming shocking cases of extreme violence by government forces and an increase in attacks on civilians, including war crimes, across the country in 2020.

New research by Amnesty International has documented a series of extrajudicial executions, forced displacement, torture, and destruction of civilian property by government and former opposition forces between April and June 2020 in Central Equatoria State, southwest of the capital Juba.

“Quite simply, the government of South Sudan has failed to protect its people” Deprose Muchena.

The UNSC is set to conduct a mid-term review of its arms embargo and other measures on South Sudan before 15 December.

“Earlier this year, as South Sudan’s officials called for the arms embargo to be lifted, government soldiers were shooting civilians, burning homes, raping women and girls, and displacing tens of thousands of people from their villages in the south of the country,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s East and Southern Africa Director.

Amnesty International 30 November 2020

Western Sahara

Human rights monitoring needed more than ever in Western Sahara

On 13 November, Morocco’s army launched an operation in the village of Al Guerguerat in the disputed Western Sahara region to dismantle a camp set up three weeks earlier by around 60 Sahrawi peaceful protesters. Moroccan authorities said the camp had been blocking traffic between the Moroccan-controlled part of the non-self-governing territory of Western Sahara and Mauritania.

Morocco declared the military operation successful, and traffic resumed once more. However, the next day, the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) President Brahim Ghali announced that the Polisario Front was putting an end to the ceasefire that had been in force since 1991. Since then, there have been reports of exchanges of fire between the two sides.

According to local organizations monitoring the human rights situation in Western Sahara, the Moroccan military operation was followed up with a crackdown on Sahrawi activists by Moroccan police, including raids on homes, increased surveillance, and arrests.

Amnesty International 30 November 2020

Condemn Morocco’s Occupation and Military Attacks on Western Sahara

Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara has always been illegitimate. We recognise Western Sahara as belonging to the Saharawi people and the Polisario Front as the legitimate representatives of Saharawi people and express solidarity with them in their David and Goliath struggle.

We recognise the right of the Saharawi people to use any means necessary in the struggle against the occupation and to assert their sovereignty, which is recognised in international law.

Responsibility for the resumption of war lies with the United Nations. This could have been avoided if the UN had implemented the ceasefire signed in 1991. Notably, the UN has failed to implement a referendum in that time.

Instead, the UN stalled (urged by France and the United States) and allowed Morocco to establish “facts on the ground” and hence to entrench the occupation. UN peacekeepers (MINURSO) have allowed repeated Moroccan violations throughout the 29 years of ceasefire. (The Gueguerat area of Western Sahara is in a MINURSO-policed buffer zone and MINURSO failed to protect unarmed Saharawi protesters from the Moroccan army.)

Socialist Alliance 28 November 2020