News Briefs -14 June 2021

Southern Africa Focus

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe court upholds chief justice’s right to resume work despite age

Zimbabwe’s High Court on Thursday backed Chief Justice Luke Malaba’s right to resume work despite a previous ruling that the president’s decision to extend Malaba’s tenure breached the constitution because he has turned 70.

The Malaba case has become the focus of a tussle between the High Court and President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who introduced a constitutional amendment that raised the retirement of Constitutional and Supreme Court judges to 75 from 70.

Lawyers have challenged the amendment but Malaba has resumed his work, prompting one of the lawyers to file contempt of court charges against the chief justice.

However, three High Court judges rejected the contempt of court charges on Thursday without immediately giving a reason for their verdict.

Reuters 10 June 2021

Surge in remittances boosts Zimbabwe economy, central bank says

Zimbabweans living abroad almost doubled the amount of money they sent home this year, bolstering the economy, Central Bank Governor John Mangudya said.

Remittances jumped to $411.1 million in the first four months of the year, compared with $221.9 million a year earlier, Mangudya said by phone Wednesday from the capital, Harare. The inflows are Zimbabwe’s second-biggest source of foreign-exchange earnings, after revenue from platinum exports.

“The economy continues to rebound due to the stability of the currency and inflation on account of the good agricultural out-turn and the positive impact of the diaspora remittances,” Mangudya said.

Economic reforms implemented by Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube and the central bank over the past three years have helped rein in annual inflation to 162%, from a peak of 837.5% in July. The depreciation of Zimbabwe’s dollar has also slowed, with the currency weakening 3.9% against the US currency this year, compared with a 79% slump last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Moneyweb 9 June 2021

eSwatini

Who was the man at the centre of eSwatini’s alleged police brutality case?

Over the past two weeks, Thabani Nkomonye’s image has appeared on banners and posters during tense protests in eSwatini. To protesting students, the 25-year-old has become the symbol of police brutality in the country. Activists have invoked his name as they call for democracy in Africa’s last monarchy.

Nkomonye, though, was no activist. He loved soccer, hip-hop and the law, say his family.

“He’s always loved law,” said Thabile Nkomenye, sister of the slain student.

Nkomonye was in the final year of his law degree at the University of eSwatini. His degree did not offer practical training, so he shadowed his older brother, who runs his own law firm, Thabile Nkomonye told News24.

News24 9 June 2021

EU Cautions Local Firms on Ethical Business Practices

Companies that trade with the European Union (EU) need to get their ducks in a row in preparedness for stricter conditions likely to be attached in trading terms.

This will be in terms of sustainable and ethical business practices. EU Ambassador to Eswatini Esmeralda Hernandez Aragones has explained that the EU’s recovery plan aims to “Build Back Better,” making Europe greener, more digital, more resilient and more sustainable.

Therefore, she said this would have an impact in their partner countries, as the EU would set a higher bar in terms of sustainable and ethical business practices.

“Business firms that engage in trade with the EU will have to do it responsibly and leave a positive impact on the lives of employees and their communities,” Aragones advised during the official opening ceremony at Hilton Garden Inn of the State Business Relation two-day workshop jointly organised by the European Union, the Government of Eswatini, the private sector of Eswatini and implementing partner for the project, International Trade Centre (ITC).

Swazi Observer 11 June 2021

Democratic Republic of Congo

At least 50 killed in attacks on two DR Congo villages

At least 50 people have been killed in two overnight attacks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s deeply troubled east, a military official and monitors said.

A local official blamed the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), which has been linked to the ISIL (ISIS) group. Military spokesman Jules Ngongo told the dpa news agency that ADF fighters attacked the villages of Boga and Tchabi in the eastern Ituri region.

The two villages lie on the border between North Kivu and Ituri provinces in an area where the ADF is believed to be active.

Other sources said the attacks may have been ethnic in origin.

Aljazeera 31 May 2021

DR Congo to start phased return of residents to volcano-hit Goma

The Democratic Republic of the Congo will start a phased return of residents who fled Goma in the aftermath of a volcanic eruption that destroyed thousands of homes and threatened to overrun the city, the government has said.

Less than a week after the initial eruption on May 22, which just stopped short of the city limits, some 400,000 people scrambled to leave when the government warned underground tremors could cause a new eruption, or trigger the release of toxic gases.

The tremors have since subsided, and many people have returned to Goma. The city lies on the shores of Lake Kivu, about 12km (7.5 miles) from Mount Nyiragongo, Africa’s most active volcano.

“Today, we decided on the progressive return of displaced people in line with a plan which will be issued by the military governor,” Prime Minister Jean-Michel Sama Lunkonde told a news conference in Goma on Monday.

Aljazeera 7 June 2021

Central and the Horn of Africa

Central African Republic

CAR Prime Minister Firmin Ngrebada and cabinet resign

Firmin Ngrebada, prime minister of the Central African Republic (CAR), has resigned along with the entire cabinet, the latest political crisis to hit the war-weary country.

The development on Thursday came during a turbulent week after France announced it was suspending military operations with its former colony.

Ngrebada said on Twitter he handed over his and the government’s resignation to President Faustin- Archange Touadera, but a presidential spokesman told the AFP news agency the prime minister could be tapped to lead a refreshed administration.

“We will know within a few hours if the president keeps the prime minister on,” Albert Yaloke Mokpeme said.

Aljazeera 10 June 2021

France suspends aid, military support for Central African Republic

France has suspended aid and military cooperation in Central African Republic because of what it says is the government’s failure to stop “massive disinformation campaigns” against France that have targeted its officials, the armed forces ministry said.

France has cut 10 million euros ($12.18 million) in budget support for its former colony and stopped direct military cooperation, the ministry told Reuters on Tuesday in an email.

“A number of commitments made by the Central African authorities vis-à-vis France have not been kept,” the ministry said, including halting the online campaigns that it says have sought to undermine French influence.

France has nearly 300 soldiers in the country, including those working for a U.N. peacekeeping mission and a European Union training deployment. The international missions will remain unaffected, but soldiers working directly for the French military will no longer cooperate with Central African Republic’s military, the ministry said.

Reuters 9 June 2021

Somalia

Somalia’s Puntland moves to ban female genital mutilation

Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland region has taken a first step towards banning female genital mutilation (FGM) in a country where almost all women and girls are forced to undergo the internationally condemned practice.

Puntland President Said Abdullahi Deni and his cabinet this week approved a bill to be submitted to parliament that would criminalise the ancient ritual, a measure anti-FGM campaigners said would boost their efforts to end the practice.

“It will be forbidden to circumcise girls. Girls in Puntland must be left the way they are born. Anyone who performs circumcision in the region will face the full force of the law,” Puntland Justice Minister Awil Sheikh Hamud told reporters.

Justice Ministry officials said the bill includes stiff penalties for those who perform FGM, including hospitals, midwives and traditional circumcisers. No date has yet been set for it to be presented before parliament for a vote.

News24 11 June 2021

Somalia urges formation of joint committee to fully restore ties with Kenya

Somalia has called for the formation of a joint committee to work out modalities on the full restoration of diplomatic relations with Kenya.

“The ministry of foreign affairs of Somalia reaffirms its commitment to restore and accelerate diplomatic, trade and people to people relations for the prosperity of Somalia and Kenya,” the ministry said in a statement issued in Mogadishu on Thursday evening.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, which welcomed Kenya’s reopening of its airspace, said the positive gesture shown by Nairobi is a starting point to commence negotiations aimed at full normalization of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The statement came hours after Kenya lifted its nearly month-long ban on flights to and from Somalia, which was put in place amid a diplomatic spat between the two neighboring countries.

Xinhua 11 June 2021

Sudan

Protests in Khartoum over price-spiking petrol subsidy removal

Tyres burned in blockades along the streets of Khartoum Thursday in protest of the Sudanese government’s decision — in line with reforms to make the country eligible for an IMF debt relief initiative, to remove subsidies on petrol and diesel resulting in their respective prices more than doubling.

The demonstrations were in response to a call the day before by an influential trade union group that had spearheaded mass protests leading to Omar al-Bashir’s ouster.

“We call on protesters to take to the streets now and daily until these unjust decisions are overturned,” the Sudanese professionals association said in a Facebook statement.

Sudanese motorists queueing at petrol stations to fill up their vehicle’s tanks were also angry.

“This government should hand in its resignation. It is unable to manage the country,” said one of them, Sofian Ibrahim.

Africa News 11 June 2021

ICC prosecutor urges Sudan to hand over Darfur war crime suspects

Fatou Bensouda has given her last briefing as chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to the UN Security Council on Wednesday, lamenting that the tribunal has not yet brought justice to victims of atrocities in Sudan’s western Darfur region. But, she said, a new era in Sudan and the transfer of the first Darfur suspect to the court should give them hope.

Bensouda said Darfur victims she spoke to last week had one message: Sudan’s transitional government should hand over three suspects sought by the court who are in its custody – former President Omar al-Bashir, who is accused of genocide; former defence minister Abdel Raheem Hussein, and former interior minister and governor Ahmad Harun.

Bensouda, whose mandate ends June 15, said she has focused on Darfur since crimes being committed there were referred to the the court by the Security Council in 2005, when she was deputy prosecutor. But her recent visit to Sudan and Darfur was a first – a memorable trip that she said was “a strong reminder that we should focus on achieving justice for the victims and finding lasting peace for the people of Darfur.”

Aljazeera 10 June 2021

South Sudan

South Sudan’s former Petroleum Minister urges industry to stick with Cape Town by endorsing African Energy Week

The Republic of South Sudan’s former Minister of Petroleum, Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth has expressed his disappointment at the decision of London based Hyve group to move Africa Oil Week to Dubai. “I think it will be unacceptable to move the Russian Energy Week from Moscow or ADIPEC from Abu Dhabi to Juba, South Sudan Africa on the basis of COVID 19. The same reasoning should apply to Africa especially Dubai has more Covid 19 cases than Cape Town.”

The former minister urged investors and companies to participate in the first edition of the African Energy Week, due to be held in Cape Town, South Africa organized by the African Energy Chamber. “Opportunities and challenges concerning the Middle East and its energy are best discussed in the Middle East, and rightfully so. It is therefore a huge lack of appreciation and a vote of no-confidence in Africa to hold this discussion outside of the continent especially when the Oil and Gas industry must have a unified position on developing our natural resources in the face of energy transition. Many of us are asking what will happen to Mining Indaba. Will they also move Mining Indadba to Dubai or London?” Mr Gatkuoth continued.

Minister Gatkuoth is yet another prominent voice in the industry that has come out against the decision to move Africa Oil Week to Dubai.

EIN News 11 June 2021

South Sudanese leaders must bring justice for victims of atrocities

The people of South Sudan have been waiting for decades to see the perpetrators of atrocities held to account. Since the First Sudanese Civil War of 1955, civilians have borne the brunt of multiple waves of conflict, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The latest conflict, which broke out in 2013, has seen tens of thousands of people killed, widespread sexual violence, and led to Africa’s largest refugee crisis.

Those in power — first the governments of Sudan and then the South Sudanese governments formed after independence in 2011 — have failed to bring the architects of this suffering to justice.

Each year these human rights violations were unaddressed and unaccounted for, impunity planted the seeds for more violence. Now, more than six years on into South Sudan’s latest conflict, history will keep repeating itself unless action and responsibility are urgently taken.

Mail& Guardian 20 May 2021

North Africa

Western Sahara

Morocco Threatens More Reprisals Over Western Sahara

Morocco’s ambassador to Spain has threatened more reprisals against Madrid over its decision to allow a Western Sahara independence leader to be treated in a Spanish hospital. 

Karima Benyaich said elements in the Spanish government did not take the interests of Morocco into account, despite assurances from Madrid that Spain wants to move on from the crisis that led to thousands of migrants flooding into Spain’s North African enclave, Ceuta, last week. 

Morocco is suspected of opening the borders to the would-be migrants.  

Analysts have suggested the threatened further reprisals could mean Rabat will not cooperate in anti-terrorist operations. 

Thursday a Spanish court jailed three men of Moroccan origin for up to 53 years for playing a part in the 2017 Barcelona terrorist attacks which killed 16 people.   

Voice of America 28 May 2021

Western Sahara leader’s treatment in Spain angers Morocco

Spain’s Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya confirmed on April 23 that Polisario Front leader Ghali had arrived in Spain from Algeria “strictly for humanitarian reasons, for medical treatment”. Spain has not said where Ghali is being treated or made information about his ailment public.

Rabat summoned the Spanish ambassador on April 25 to demand an explanation and express concern at Ghali’s admittance to a Spanish hospital, adding in a statement on May 8 that it was a “premeditated act” that would have repercussions.

Reuters 18 May 2021

International Affairs

Palestine

Demolishing Palestinian homes for an Israeli religious theme park

Nearly 120 Palestinian families face the destruction of their homes to make way for an Israeli religious theme park where the Israelis believe King David had a garden in biblical times.

About 1,500 people living in more than 100 buildings in the al-Bustan area of Silwan in occupied East Jerusalem are under threat.

On Monday, Jerusalem Municipality inspectors, accompanied by Israeli forces, delivered notices to demolish at least 13 of those homes and structures within 21 days, after an Israeli court ruled earlier they had been constructed without building permits.

“Stating that the orders were delivered is somewhat inaccurate,” said social activist Angela Godfrey-Goldstein, the co-director of the Jahalin Solidarity organisation.

“When inspectors deliver orders to Palestinians, they don’t give them in person or even affix them to the relevant doors despite the notices saying ‘demolition within 21-days of receipt’,” Godfrey-Goldstein told Al Jazeera.

Aljazeera 11 June 2021

Palestinian village pays high price in defence of its land

This picturesque little town with its narrow winding roads and steep hills dotted with olive trees and stone houses turned into a bloody battleground as Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli forces over the building of an illegal settlement on their land.

Beita activists called on residents to fight the continuing takeover of their land on Mount Sabih by Israeli settlers, who are currently building an illegal settlement and threatening the livelihoods of at least 17 Palestinian families – more than 100 people – who depend on harvesting their olives on land they have owned for generations.
“Today we had 50 injuries by rubber bullets, 26 wounded by live bullets, 190 cases of tear gas inhalation and 27 other injuries, including beatings,” said Fawas Beitar, a Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) paramedic and coordinator, on Friday.

Aljazeera 7 June 2021

Myanmar

‘A catastrophe’: UN warns of intensifying violence in Myanmar

The United Nations human rights chief has warned that violence is intensifying across Myanmar, slamming the country’s military government for being “singularly responsible” for a “human rights catastrophe”.

In a statement published on Friday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said multiple reports indicated that armed conflict was continuing, including in Kayah, Chin and Kachin states, with the violence particularly intense in areas with significant ethnic and religious minority groups.

“There appear to be no efforts towards de-escalation but rather a build-up of troops in key areas, contrary to the commitments the military made to ASEAN to cease the violence,” said Bachelet, referring to the 10-member regional bloc.

Aljazeera 11 June 2021

Myanmar Junta Hits Suu Kyi with Graft Charges

The Myanmar junta has hit deposed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi with corruption charges over claims she accepted illegal payments of gold and more than half a million dollars in cash, state media reported Thursday.

The country has been in turmoil since the generals ousted Suu Kyi on 1 February with nearly 850 civilians killed in a brutal crackdown by security forces on near-daily protests against the coup.

The 75-year-old Nobel laureate, who has been in custody since the coup, is facing a raft of wide-ranging criminal charges, including sedition and breaching a colonial-era secrecy law.

The latest charges relate to allegations by the former Yangon region chief minister that Suu Kyi illegally accepted $600,000 in cash from him along with around 11 kilograms of gold.

EWN 10 June 2021