Democratic Republic of Congo
A group of 11 militiamen in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been jailed for life for raping about 40 children, including at least one baby.
The girls they raped between 2013 and 2016 were aged between eight months and 12 years old.
The men’s alleged leader was a local MP called Frederic Batumike. He is one of those who was jailed.
Local campaigners hailed the verdict against the men as a sign that impunity for sexual violence was ending.
“It’s a strong signal to anyone who would contemplate this kind of offence,” lawyer for the victims Charles Cubaka Cicura told Reuters news agency.
The European Union on Monday warned Democratic Republic of Congo it would cut off help to hold elections next year if the authorities failed to end “harassment” of the opposition and civil society.
In a statement, the 28-nation bloc said it was “critical” for the Kinshasa government to uphold the timetable of the much-delayed elections.
It also detailed a long list of abuses, including “acts of harassment toward opposition political figures, representatives of the media and civil society and defenders of human rights.”
The statement urged the release of all political prisoners, the lifting of “unjustified” prosecutions and the reopening of media outlets that had been closed.
“The EU calls on the respect for freedom of assembly and peaceful demonstration,” the statement said, warning “the EU will evaluate implementation (of these measures) in implementing its technical and financial support” for the elections.
The US government is cutting aid to some Somali military units amid allegations of misuse of funds and corruption by the Somali military, a State Department official told CNN on Thursday.
Aid will continue to Somali military units that are mentored directly by US military advisers or are actively engaged in fighting the al Qaeda affiliate al Shabaab and other extremist groups, the State Department official said.
The decision comes as the US has become increasingly involved in the fight against al Shabaab and ISIS with airstrikes and some 500 US troops in the country advising local forces.
The US is also becoming increasingly dependent on the Somali military as thousands of troops from the multinational Africa Union mission in Somalia plan to withdraw by the end of 2020.
The budget approved by Somalia’s parliament this week is in line with fiscal reforms the government committed to when it entered an International Monetary Fund programme in May, an IMF official told Reuters.
Somalia is now on its second 12-month IMF staff-monitored programme after decades of war and turmoil, and adherence to the IMF’s fiscal framework opens the door for grants and concessional funding from international financial institutions.
The $274 million budget approved on Wednesday includes measures expected to boost domestic revenue collection by $20-$25 million.
Central African Republic
The United States, Britain and France on Wednesday asked that a Russian request to send light arms to the Central African Republic be put on hold as they seek more information on the shipments, diplomats said.
Russia has asked the UN Security Council for an exemption to an arms embargo on the Central African Republic (CAR) to allow the arms to be shipped to its armed forces.
The first delivery of pistols, automatic rifles and ammunition is scheduled for next week.
CAR President Faustin-Archange Touadera asked Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for the weaponry during talks at the Black Sea resort of Sochi in October.
News24 Brazil to Join UN Mission in Central African Republic, MINUSCA
Brazil will join the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), the UN announced. This is an important decision for the South American nation, as Brasilia looks to maintain a high profile in UN peace operations. This also shows an increased interest in Africa as well perhaps to counterbalance western interests. What remains to be seen is whether the 750 Brazilian troops to be deployed will have a positive impact in MINUSCA’s operations as the violence in the troubled central African state continues.
Brazil and UN Peace Missions
Brazil has had a strong interest in participating in UN missions in order to increase its international profile. In fact, the South American country had a leading role in the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), as well as the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). MINUSTAH concluded its activities this past October after 13 years in the Caribbean state, prompting Brazil and other donors to withdraw their troops, and it has been replaced by a smaller mission, the United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH).
International Policy Digest
Seated in his Khartoum office overlooking the Blue Nile, Sudanese journalist Adil al-Baz no longer fears a crackdown by security agents over his articles since he launched an online newspaper.
“We are free to publish what we want on our online newspaper,” Baz, a former print newspaper editor, told AFP at the office of Al-Ahdath, the website he launched this year.
In a country of increasing media censorship, Baz is among several independent journalists who have left newspaper jobs and launched online papers or websites.
About a dozen internet papers have been launched in the past year alone as agents of the powerful National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) continue to confiscate entire print-runs of newspapers over articles opposed to President Omar al-Bashir’s regime.
After his participation in activities of the Sudanese- British economic forum in london UK ambassador to Khartoum Michael Aron, described it “very successful event” and said in statement to SUNA , there is very little British investment in Sudan at the moment. But in Egypt, UK is the largest international investors and in Kenya there are big Britain companies employing thousands of Kenyans in high productive jobs and we want to see that in Sudan as well. He spoke also on cooperation with Sudan in different arenas such as economic, political, and military fields. In addition to hot topics of human rights, refugees and migration… … more details in Interviews page
The UN Security Council warned on Thursday of “costs or consequences” for South Sudan’s government and opposition if they undermine upcoming efforts to achieve a cease-fire and implement a 2015 peace agreement.
The council underlined in a presidential statement approved by all 15 members that “no party should set preconditions to participation” in the new peace process.
Council members strongly backed the forum organized by an eight-nation East African regional group to revitalize peace efforts. It is expected to begin Monday in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.
There were high hopes that South Sudan would have peace and stability after its independence from neighboring Sudan in 2011. But the world’s newest nation plunged into ethnic violence in December 2013 when forces loyal to President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, started battling those loyal to his former vice president, Riek Machar, a Nuer.
Sustained international action is urgently needed to end the horrific human rights violations taking place in South Sudan, said Amnesty International today as the country’s armed conflict entered its fifth year.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed, thousands more subjected to sexual violence, and close to four million displaced since the conflict began on 15 December 2013.
“Coordinated and sustained international action is needed now more than ever to end the suffering in South Sudan, especially as the rainy season ends and the dry season begins, heralding an escalation in fighting,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
“Regional states and the international community must work together to find a lasting solution to this crisis and put an end to the litany of human rights violations.”
The Assembly of Extremadura (Spain), has adopted, unanimously, an institutional declaration of support to the people of Western Sahara, signed by all the parliamentary groups present in the autonomous chamber.
Extremadura legislators demand the Kingdom of Morocco the immediate release of Saharawi political prisoners, and the cease of violations of human rights in the prisons it controls,” went on saying the statement, condemning the continued plundering of the natural resources of Western Sahara.
It considers it necessary and urgent for MINURSO to have in its functions the capacity to supervise and document the violations committed by Morocco against the Sahrawis in the OOTT.
Sahara Press Service
Fresh from a regional tour to discuss the dispute over Western Sahara, the new UN envoy said Wednesday he was “encouraged” but did not announce plans for new political talks.
Former German president Horst 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.
After briefing the Security Council behind closed doors, Koehler told reporters “I am encouraged” but declined to provide details.
“We know it’s a very complex issue but there was a kind of constructive attitude in all the interlocutors he met,” said Italian Ambassador Sebastiano Cardi, who is council president this month.
The council adopted a resolution in April that calls for kick-starting talks on a settlement following a tense standoff last year between Moroccan troops and Polisario fighters in Guerguerat, a remote area in Western Sahara near Mauritania.
More than 80 percent of women aged 60 and over and 70 percent of men in Swaziland live in poverty, according to a new report.
This comes at a time when the Swazi Government has run out of money and cannot pay elderly grants (pensions) to all people in that age group.
The figures are contained in the National Strategy and Action Plan to End Violence in Swaziland: 2017 to 2022.
About seven in ten of Swaziland’s 1.3 million population live in abject poverty defined as having incomes less than the equivalent of US$2 per day. The report said poverty among people aged 60 or over was highest compared to other age groups.
THE Swaziland Revenue Authority (SRA) has locked out its striking employees from all its premises across the country. In a notice dated December 13, 2017 and signed by Commissioner General Dumisani Masilela, the authority gave formal notice of the lockout in terms of section 86(9) of the Industrial Relations Act 2000 and it will be effective from today (December 15, 2017) at 7am.
Masilela said the lockout would subsist until such time that the Swaziland Revenue Authority Workers Union (SRAWU) and its members accept the offer that has been placed by SRA and as set out in the certificate of unresolved dispute issued by the Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration Commission (CMAC). The commissioner general said the lockout shall only be called off by written notice issued by SRA which shall be copied to the Labour Commissioner and CMAC “During the course of the lockout notice, the union and its striking members are not permitted to enter their places of employment for whatever reason,” wrote Masilela. There was however commotion and confusion at the SRA headquarters in Mbabane yesterday afternoon after the march to the ministry of finance to deliver a petition by the workers. Soon after delivering their petition, the workers marched to the SRA headquarters where they were supposed to be addressed by union leaders. When they arrived at the headquarters, some of the workers, mainly those based at the head office, made attempts to enter the building to conduct certain errands but were barred by a strong contingent of police officers and security guards.
Zimbabwe’s new agriculture minister has ordered people illegally occupying formerly white-owned commercial farms to vacate, nearly two decades after violent land grabs led by ousted ex-president Robert Mugabe, state media said Thursday.
“All those who were illegally settled or who just settled themselves on resettlement land should vacate immediately,” The Herald quoted Perrance Shiri, Zimbabwe’s new lands and agriculture minister, as saying.
“Only those people with documentation of land occupancy and or those who were allocated land legitimately should remain on the farms and concentrate on production unhindered.”
Shiri, a retired air force marshal who served in the military when the army took over government last month resulting in the ouster of Mugabe, said “sanity” had to prevail for Zimbabwe to revive its agriculture.
“If we are to meet the goals set out by government to use agriculture as the mainstay of the economy, we need to ensure unquestionable sanity on the farms,” he said.
imbabwe’s new president is showing signs of charting a path different from that of his ousted mentor, Robert Mugabe, as he tries to win over the country before next year’s elections.
On Friday, the ruling Zanu-PF party is expected to endorse President Emmerson Mnangagwa as party leader and its presidential candidate. The elections are a key test of his promises to strengthen Zimbabwe’s democracy and attract badly needed foreign investment to revive a devastated economy.
The party congress also will endorse the recall of 93-year-old Mugabe from the party and government, said spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo, completing last month’s dramatic events that saw the military put Mugabe under house arrest, scores of thousands rally in the streets and lawmakers begin impeachment proceedings before the longtime leader resigned.
Africa in General
Kenya’s opposition leader was targeted in a virulent online campaign created by a US-based company during the recent election turmoil, a privacy watchdog said Thursday, while another rights group reported multiple gang-rapes by men in uniform in opposition strongholds.
The reports highlight the volatility of the months during which the Supreme Court nullified the re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta and ordered a new vote that opposition leader Raila Odinga boycotted and Kenyatta won. Anger remains high among Odinga supporters; scores were killed in clashes with security forces.
The data-driven social media campaigns allegedly created by Texas-based Harris Media contributed to one of the most divisive votes in the East African nation’s history, the London-based Privacy International said.
New President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Thursday called for the removal of Western sanctions on members of Zimbabwe’s ruling elite and said elections due in 2018 were “nearer than you expect”.
The United States maintains a travel and economic embargo on several Zanu-PF party officials, top military figures and some government-owned firms. It imposed it during former president Robert Mugabe’s rule over what it called violations of human rights and democracy.
The EU lifted most of its sanctions in 2014 but kept them on Mugabe and his wife Grace.
“We call for the unconditional lifting of the political and economic sanctions, which have crippled our national development,” Mnangagwa told a meeting of the Zanu-PF central committee in downtown Harare.
The UN’s chief peacekeeper was in eastern DR Congo on Friday to visit those wounded in last week’s deadly ambush that killed 14, the worst attack on a peacekeeping mission in 24 years.
A week after the bloodshed, Jean-Pierre Lacroix was in Goma where he visited around 30 of those injured in the December 7 attack in North Kivu province which targeted a base of the UN’s Monusco force.
The UN said the ambush, which sparked a prolonged gun battle in which 53 peacekeepers were wounded, was carried out by suspected ADF rebels, a shadowy group dominated by hardline Ugandan Muslims that is one of several armed groups active in the North Kivu region.
A Liberian opposition party formally backed George Weah for president on Thursday despite mounting a prolonged legal fight with his opponent, Vice-President Joseph Boakai, against the country’s electoral commission.
Weah and Boakai are due to face each other in a December 26 run-off triggered when the two men took first and second spots respectively in an October 10 presidential election but failed to win more than 50 percent of ballots cast.
The Liberty Party, whose standard bearer Charles Brumskine complained of fraud and irregularities after he scraped third with 9.6% of ballots, had joined forces with Boakai’s ruling Unity Party in arguing the National Elections Commission (NEC) had rigged the vote.