News Briefs 16 February 2021

South Sudan

Changing the Calculus to Support Peace in South Sudan

For more than two years, South Sudan’s leaders have engaged in stalling tactics that have stymied the implementation of the peace deal signed in September 2018. President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar, by signing the peace accord, agreed to form a transitional government that would prepare the country for elections. But even now, critical aspects of the deal such as security arrangements, a reconstituted legislature, transitional justice, and institutional reforms are behind schedule or completely frozen.

While Kiir and Machar prolong the implementation of the peace deal, opportunities for good governance are being squandered. A significant delay in appointing state governors, for example, means that intractable problems, such as inter-ethnic blood feuds and militarized cattle raiding, cannot be resolved due to the lack of political leadership at the state level. In the first week of February alone, seven people died in inter-ethnic fighting in Lakes and Warrap states.

The foot-dragging on security arrangements also means that the formation of a unified army is not complete, thereby undermining confidence in the peace agreement. The chief of staff of Machar’s rebel army, for example, refuses to set foot in the capital, indicating he is not happy with the security arrangements. Also troubling is the fact that a hybrid court stipulated in the peace deal will not be established on time, and critical evidence required for the prosecution of cases may be lost, making it more difficult to hold war criminals accountable.

Just Security 13 February 2021

Floods, fighting, famine: Inside South Sudan’s triple crisis

Tucked away behind the bend of a swollen river, an hour and a half by motorboat from the region’s main health centre, local residents in the remote South Sudanese village of Lekuangole say their children are starving to death.

There’s the three-year-old son of Ngalan Luryen who died of hunger last February after a week hiding in a forest from militiamen. And there’s the nine-year-old grandson of Anna Korok who lost his life in July when conflict split him from his family and left him nothing to eat.

“We need food,” Korok told The New Humanitarian during a trip to the village in December. “So children don’t die.”

Food experts haven’t collected enough data to formally declare a “famine” in Lekuangole and the surrounding villages. But after months of fighting and torrential floods in this part of South Sudan, the experts – and local officials – say they have little doubt that one is happening here.

The New Humanitarian 8 February 2021

Western Sahara

Biden has much to lose by not reversing US position on Western Sahara

One of the first things that President Joe Biden should have done upon entering office is to have reversed former president Donald Trump’s proclamation that the US recognises Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara. It was one of a long list of dangerous foreign policy moves Trump made with grave ramifications for the region and for US interests.

Not only has Trump increased tensions in the region, and made a return to armed conflict between Morocco and Western Sahara a renewed possibility, but he has gone against the policy of the African Union which recognises the Arab Sahrawi Democratic Republic as a sovereign member of the continental body.

Biden has indicated that he wants a strong relationship with the AU and even addressed the recent AU Summit, but this objective will be hard to realise unless he moves fast to reverse Trump’s declaration and return the US to its historic position of supporting a referendum in Western Sahara on self-determination as called for in UN Resolution 690 of 1991.

IOL 14 February 2021

Sudan warns Ethiopia against provoking a war that threatens regional stability

Sudan strongly condemned on Sunday “Ethiopian aggression” on its territories and the direct violation of its sovereignty and the safety of the Sudanese lands, state news agency SUNA reported.

The Sudanese Foreign Ministry issued a statement describing the aggression on Sudanese territories as “an unacceptable and regretful escalation.”

“The aggression contradicts the values of good neighborliness and the positive treatment between the countries to strengthen security and stability” the statement was cited by SUNA.

The statement said that Ethiopia’s actions would have a dangerous impact on security and stability in the region, adding that Sudan holds Ethiopia fully responsible for the consequences of its aggression.

However, the statement did not specify the nature of the new aggression and whether it had led to casualties on the Sudanese forces.

Arab News 15 February 2021


UN extends mandate of experts monitoring developments in Sudan

The UN Security Council has unanimously adopted a resolution that extends the mandate of a group of experts on Sudan that assists the committee overseeing sanctions related to the country.

The preamble to Resolution 2562, which was drafted by the US, welcomed the “historic” Sudanese Peace Agreement as “an important milestone of the transition period toward a peaceful, stable, democratic and prosperous future for Sudan.” The peace deal was signed in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, on Oct. 3 last year by the government of Sudan and a number of rebel groups including the Sudanese Revolutionary Front and the Sudan Liberation Movement.

The resolution encourages the signatories to swiftly implement the agreement and urges those who have yet to join the peace process “to do so immediately, constructively and without preconditions.”

It also highlights the precarious security situation in Darfur, and warns of the risk of “a relapse into conflict” and the dangers to civilians arising from inter-communal violence, human-rights abuses, violations of international humanitarian law and continued displacements.

Arab News 12 February 2021


Zimbabwe receives 200 000 doses of SinoPharm vaccine

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa says that the first batch of vaccines for Zimbabwe has been successfully delivered.

Zimbabwe has received 200 000 doses of SinoPharm vaccine as the country ramps up efforts to fight COVID-19 and kick start its vaccination drive.

The drugs are a donation from the Chinese government and arrived in Harare from Beijing on Monday morning.

The Health Department says the vaccines will be distributed to provinces and districts for health workers, a second batch with 600 000 doses of the SinoPharm vaccine have been purchased by Zimbabwe’s government and are expected in the country in a month’s time.

Vice President and Health Minister, Constantino Chiwenga, says they want the roll-out to begin as soon as possible.

In a tweet Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa says, “The first batch of vaccines for Zimbabwe has been successfully delivered. We start vaccinating Zimbabweans this week!”

SABC News 15 February 2021

UK slaps sanctions on four top Zimbabwe security officials

The United Kingdom has slapped sanctions on four Zimbabwean security officials over alleged human rights abuses, in a move that will restrict their travel to Britain and freeze their assets.

Applying a new sanctions regime following its exit from the European Union, the UK on Monday cited a crackdown on protests in January 2019 which killed 17, and post-election violence in 2018, as it introduced the sanctions on Minister for State Security Owen Ncube, as well as heads of police and intelligence organisations.

“These sanctions send a clear message that we will hold to account those responsible for the most egregious human rights violations, including the deaths of innocent Zimbabweans,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement.

“These sanctions target senior individuals in the government, and not ordinary Zimbabweans. We will continue to press for the necessary political and economic reforms that will benefit all Zimbabweans.”

Aljazeera 1 February 2021


Eswatini revamps tax system, cuts debt arrears amid virus crisis

The southern African Kingdom of Eswatini is overhauling its tax system and reducing its debt arrears as it seeks to shore up its finances amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The landlocked nation intends introducing new levies to increase its tax take and bring more individuals and entities into the net, Finance Minister Neal Rijkenberg said in an interview.

The government estimates that the so-called “shadow economy” of illicit and informal activity, accounts for about 40% of output and isn’t factored into the national accounts. That meant gross domestic product of 68 billion emalangeni ($4.5 billion) was probably understated by about 27 billion emalangeni in 2019.

Consumption taxes, which limit the scope for evasion, are on the cards. The government is also considering imposing turnover duties and using indirect means to assess how much smaller firms should pay, rather than relying on their annual financial statements.

Money Web 31 January 2021

eSwatini will not use AstraZeneca vaccine after S.Africa trial data

eSwatini will no longer use AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, its health minister said on Tuesday, after a trial showed it gave minimal protection against mild-to-moderate COVID-19 caused by the dominant variant in South Africa.

eSwatini, a tiny kingdom formerly known as Swaziland that borders South Africa, was due to receive AstraZeneca doses from the COVAX Facility, the global vaccine distribution scheme co-led by the World Health Organization (WHO).

South Africa on Sunday put on hold the rollout of AstraZeneca’s shots, after researchers published preliminary data showing the vaccine had significantly reduced efficacy against the more contagious 501Y.V2 variant first identified late last year.

The researchers did not assess whether the AstraZeneca vaccine protects against severe COVID-19, and the South African government is consulting experts on how to proceed with the 1 million doses it already has received.

Reuters 10 February 2021

Democratic Republic Congo

Democratic Republic of Congo to Start Vaccinations Against Ebola After Two Deaths

The country reported its first case of the virus last week, just months after the last outbreak.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) this week reported its first cases of Ebola in North Kivu province, in the country’s east, just months after its last outbreak came to an end.

It is not yet clear whether this is the start of a new outbreak, however officials are preparing to begin an Ebola vaccination campaign following the deaths of two women who had contracted the virus. A 60-year-old female farmer died of the virus this week, following the death of a 42-year-old woman in the city of Butembo, who was the first recorded case this year.

The province’s health minister, Eugene Nzanzu Syalita, told the BBC that they would start vaccinating people in a health zone near Butembo, called Masoya. The minister did not say when this inoculation process would begin, however samples of the virus are currently being studied in the DRC’s capital of Kinshasa to determine whether the cases are a new strain of Ebola.

Global Citizen 12 February 2021

Democratic Republic of Congo confirms third Ebola case in North Kivu province

Democratic Republic of Congo has confirmed a third Ebola case this week in North Kivu province, provincial health minister Eugene Nzanzu Salita said on Friday.

The case was found in Butembo, a city of over 1 million people and the epicentre of a major outbreak of the disease that was declared over last June after nearly two years.

“We are in a meeting to gather all the information on the investigations done around this case,” said Salita.

Congo’s health ministry announced a resurgence of the disease on Feb. 7, after a woman contracted Ebola and died. She was married to a survivor of the previous outbreak.

On Friday, 1,200 doses of Ebola vaccine and cold chain equipment arrived in Butembo, the health ministry and the World Health Organisation (WHO) said in a statement.

Health workers are training vaccinators and tracing more than 100 contacts in the districts of Biena and Katwa, the statement said.

Sowetan 13 February 2021

Central African Republic

What is behind the renewed violence in CAR?

On January 4, the incumbent president of the Central African Republic (CAR), Faustin-Archange Touadéra, was re-elected for a second term after the country’s electoral commission announced he defeated 16 other candidates and garnered 53.9 percent of the vote, enough to render a runoff unnecessary.

The elections have generated an upsurge in violence triggered following the Constitutional Court’s rejection of former President François Bozizé’s candidacy on December 3. The court cited his failure to meet the constitution’s “good morality” requirement due to an international warrant and UN sanctions against him for his alleged involvement in assassinations, torture and other crimes during his tenure.

Following the announcement, Bozizé joined a coalition of armed groups, the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC), some of whom were formerly part of the Séléka coalition which toppled him in 2013. They launched attacks on several towns outside of Bangui in an effort to force an election postponement and initiative a new round of peace talks.

Aljazeera 30 January 2021

In Central African Republic, disputed polls spark a rebel offensive

At least 100,000 people have fled their homes in Central African Republic as a rebel coalition calling for the resignation of the president launches attacks around the county, throwing into question almost two years of peace efforts.

The capital city, Bangui, has come under fire and major towns are occupied by the coalition of some of CAR’s strongest rebel groups, which formed shortly before December elections won by President Faustin-Archange Touadéra but contested by the opposition.

By capturing the western town of Bouar, the rebels – known as the Coalition of Patriots for Change, or the CPC – have cut off the main trade route linking Cameroon to Bangui. Other roads leading to the capital have also been seized in what could be a strategy to “asphyxiate” the city, according to Hans De Marie Heungoup, a Central Africa analyst at the International Crisis Group.

The New Humanitarian 18 January 2021


Suicide bomber strikes near presidential palace

A suicide bomber blew up a car near the presidential palace in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, on Saturday, injuring at least seven people and destroying dozens of vehicles, police said.

The bomber broke through a checkpoint near the palace and detonated his explosives after police chased and fired at his vehicle, authorities told reporters.

“Security forces foiled a complex attack this morning, firing on the suicide car bomber before he reached his target, allowing many civilians to escape unharmed,” a police officer told the German news agency DPA.

Confusion over death toll

The official police statement said that the only death in the scene was the bomber’s, but witnesses reported at least two other deaths, according to the French news agency AFP.

DW 14 February 2021

Somalia urged to solve election impasse

The UN Security Council urges Somalia’s leaders to quickly resume dialogue to arrange new elections, hoping to resolve a political crisis in the violence-ravaged nation. Somalia’s president has called for state leaders to meet next week to thrash out a way forward from the political uncertainty. Also, Cameroon has seen a spike in violent crimes against women. Gender-based violence is often exacerbated by crises. Many victims of abuse have little faith in police and turn to grassroots organisations for support, as our correspondents report.

France24 10 February 2021