News Briefs 21 February 2020

Somalia

Somalia: Al-Shabab fighters attack military bases

Al-Shabab has attacked two Somali military bases using an explosive-laden vehicle driven by a suicide bomber along with dozens of heavily-armed fighters.

At least 12 Somali soldiers were killed in the attack on Wednesday, and the attackers briefly captured a base southwest of the capital, officials said, underscoring the group’s ability to launch attacks despite a government offensive.

A suicide bomber detonated at the el-Salini base before gunmen stormed in and briefly occupied it, police said. The military recaptured the base after reinforcements arrived.

“They took the base and took weapons and ammunitions, this includes anti-aircraft guns fixed on pickups,” said Nur Ahmed, a police officer from Afgoye in Lower Shabelle region.

Aljazeera

Somaliland Not Ready to Welcome Somalia President Yet

Somaliland is uncomfortable with a push by Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to visit the country alongside Somalia president Mohamed Abdilahi Farmajo.

Abiy Ahmed had late last week requested to visit Somaliland capital Hargeisa alongside Farmajo.

This came days after the Ethiopian PM had succeeded in having Somaliland leader Musa Bihi and Farmajo meet at his office in Addis Ababa after the Africa Union Summit.

When Farmajo returned to Mogadishu he made a public apology to Somalilanders for the atrocities committed during the 1980s.

But now Somaliland says it is not yet ready to host Farmajo who would have been the first Somalia president to visit Hargeisa since the two countries separated in 1991.

“Not now,” a government official who did not want to be named said.

East African Business Week

Western Sahara

Morocco/Western Sahara: Crackdown against activists for criticizing the King, public institutions and officials

The Moroccan authorities are intensifying their crackdown on peaceful voices with a new wave of arbitrary arrests and prosecutions of individuals, including a journalist, rappers and Youtubers, many of whom have been targeted simply for criticizing the King or other officials, said Amnesty International today.

The organisation has documented the cases of at least ten activists who have been unlawfully subjected to arrests, interrogation and harsh sentences since November. Four have been accused of “offending” or “insulting” the King or the Monarchy known to be one of the three ‘red lines’ for freedom of expression in Morocco. All ten individuals have been accused of “offending” public officials or institutions, all crimes under Morocco’s Penal Code.

“The Moroccan authorities’ concept of a “red line” is essentially a ban on criticising the monarchy or state institutions, which is being used with renewed enthusiasm to target peaceful activists and artists.  Youtubers, rappers and journalists now face harsh prison sentences after being targeted with repressive laws,” said Heba Morayef, MENA regional director at Amnesty International.

Amnesty International

Slovak minister tipped to be next UN envoy for Western Sahara

Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak, who once served as the president of the UN General Assembly, is expected to be named the world body’s new special envoy for disputed Western Sahara, diplomats said Wednesday.

The post has been vacant since May 2019, when former German president Horst Kohler stepped down for health reasons.

Unless one of the formal parties to the conflict objects, Lajcak’s nomination should be confirmed in the coming weeks, the diplomats told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The vast desert territory of Western Sahara lies north of Mauritania and is bordered to the west by around 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) of Atlantic coastline.

France24

Zimbabwe

EU Urges Zimbabwe to Bring Abusive Security Forces to Justice

The European Union yesterday called on the Zimbabwe government to ensure perpetrators of human rights violations are swiftly brought to justice and immediately implement the recommendations of an inquiry into violence following the 2018 elections.

The Motlanthe Commission of Inquiry, set up by President Emmerson Mnangagwa following the post-election violence of August 1, 2018, found that six people died and 35 others were injured as a result of actions by the state security forces. Some commission recommendations, which have yet to be implemented, include ensuring perpetrators are held accountable and a special committee to compensate those killed and those who lost property is set up.

Human Rights Watch investigations found some state security forces used excessive and lethal force to crush nationwide protests in January 2019. During and after the protests, the forces fired live ammunition that killed 17 people, and at least 17 women were raped. No security force personnel have been arrested or prosecuted for these abuses. The authorities have also yet to fulfill the requirements of section 210 of Zimbabwe’s Constitution by establishing an effective and independent mechanism for investigating complaints from members of the public regarding misconduct by security services and remedy any harm done.

Human Rights Watch

Nelson Chamisa: Zimbabwe’s tragic failure of leadership can be reversed

In 2008 Nelson Mandela said there was a “tragic failure of leadership” in Zimbabwe. His words have never been truer than they are today. There is evidence of failure everywhere you look.

In March 1997, Zimbabwe launched Vision 2020. Among the promises under Vision 2020 were housing, healthcare, education, and jobs for all by 2020. Today, not a single one of these promises has been met. Zimbabwe’s healthcare system is facing its worst crisis ever. Its schools are witnessing the highest dropout rates in its history. Unemployment is worsening, amid currency volatility and an unstable business environment.

According to the UN, 90% of Zimbabwean children are experiencing malnutrition and stunted growth. In a nation as rich and talented as Zimbabwe, this should not be the case. It is a tragic failure of leadership.

Business Day

Swaziland

Swaziland to Increase Spending On Internal Security As Prodemocracy Groups Continue Protests

Swaziland (eSwatini) ruled by absolute monarch King Mswati III is to spend more money on national security in the coming year, the Swazi Finance Minister Neal Rijkenberg announced in his annual budget.

Prodemocracy campaigners have been active in recent years and police and security forces have used violence to break up legal demonstrations.

Rijkenberg did not put a figure on the additional expenditure in his speech on Friday (14 February 2020).

He told the Swazi Parliament, ‘Support to our security forces as we pursue economic stability and growth in the country is key to sustainable development of our nation. This budget seeks to strengthen public order management and state security systems which are important factors in ensuring that the country’s safety and security landscape is conducive for investment.’

AllAfrica

Swaziland to have honorary consulate in Pakistan soon

Prince Thumbu Muzi Dlamini, son-in-law of Nelson Mandela, has said that honorary Consulate of Swaziland would be appointed in Islamabad soon.  Speaking at a ceremony at Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Friday, he said that there was need to enhance trade volume between Pakistan and whole South Africa. LCCI President Irfan Iqbal Sheikh, Senior Vice President Ali Hussam Asghar, Executive Committee members Haji Asif Saher, Zeeshan Sohail Malik, Yasir Khursheed, Fiaz Haider, Aqib Asif and former EC member Dr Shahid Raza, Prince Magudvulela, Senator in Swaziland Parliament also spoke on the occasion. Prince Thumbu Muzi Dlamini said that Pakistani companies could avail huge opportunities available in Swaziland.

He stressed the need of starting direct flights between the two countries to facilitate the business community.

Magudvulela said that there was a need to upscale trade between Pakistan and Swaziland. He said that both countries have their own strengths. Swaziland has a majority of Muslim community and there was need of frequent exchange of cultural delegations, he said.

The Nation

Democratic Republic of Congo

Suspected rebels kill several civilians in DR Congo

At least eight people have been killed in a suspected rebel attack in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and others have been reported missing, police said, in the latest bloodshed blamed on armed rebels in the troubled region.

Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) fighters “slit the throats of eight people today in broad daylight. Thankfully, our intervention prevented a worse toll,” Major Losendjola Morisho, police chief in Mangina in the Beni region, told the AFP news agency on Friday.

“About another 20 others are also missing in the area,” said Morisho. “We don’t know if they have been killed, taken hostage or fled the area. We are searching for them.”

Aljazeera

DR Congo Ebola outbreak still an international public health concern

The Ebola virus disease outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) remains an international public health concern, experts meeting in Geneva concluded on Wednesday.

The World Health Organization (WHO) convened its Emergency Committee which reaffirmed that the risk remains high at the national and regional levels, but low globally.

“It was the unanimous view of the Committee that this event still constitutes a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC)”, the UN agency said in a statement.

“The Committee was concerned that withdrawing the PHEIC now might have adverse consequences for the response efforts through diminishing focus.”

UN News

Central African Republic

Central African Republic: Security Council reflects on peace deal anniversary

One year after the signing of a peace deal in the Central African Republic (CAR), State authority is being extended throughout the country, violence against civilians has decreased, and an inclusive Government remains in place, the UN Security Council heard on Thursday.

Ambassadors were briefed by Mankeur Ndiaye, UN Special Representative for the country, who presented the latest report of the Secretary-General focusing on progress and challenges since the authorities and 14 armed groups signed the Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation last February in the capital, Bangui.  

It was negotiated under the auspices of the African Union (AU), which had brought the sides together for 10 days of talks in Khartoum.

UN News

Prioritize Justice in Central African Republic

In the Central African Republic, a year after the government and 14 armed groups signed a peace accord, civilians remain at significant risk from serious human rights abuses. The deal, commonly known as the Khartoum Accord, was negotiated by the African Union (AU) during 18 months of talks. But brutal attacks on civilians continued even then, a harbinger of how little regard the armed groups would have for the deal.

Over the course of negotiations, commanders of the armed groups told me that calls for accountability would jeopardize peace. The final document remained vague on steps needed to ensure post-conflict justice and does not mention specific processes, or efforts to promote justice in the country.

Since the accord was signed in Sudan on February 6, 2019, groups have committed abuses, violating it almost daily. Return, Reclamation and Rehabilitation (3R), a rebel group based in the Ouham Pendé province led by Sidiki Abass, killed at least 46 civilians in three separate and brutal attacks just three months after the ink had dried.

Human Rights Watch

Sudan

Sudan police fired teargas, disperse protests over army’s forced retirement

Sudanese police fired teargas on Thursday at hundreds of protesters in Khartoum calling for the reinstatement of soldiers who were forced into retirement after they voiced support for last year’s revolution, an AFP reporter said.

“Hundreds of youths in Khartoum demonstrated near the presidential palace carrying Sudanese flags and signs saying ‘The army is Sudan’s army’ and ‘Don’t dismiss the army’s free men’,” an AFP correspondent said.

Protesters also burned tyres and blocked roads, but police arrived and fired tear gas to disperse them, the correspondent said.

Earlier this week, the military published a list of officers of various ranks who had been forced into retirement.

Daily Nation

Sudan: Progress on Rights, Justice, Key to Transition

Sudan’s transitional government should accelerate legal and institutional reform and visible progress on domestic justice initiatives, Human Rights Watch said today, following its first official visit to the country in over 14 years. International donors should expedite assistance to support the transitional government’s reform agenda.

“Sudan’s leaders confirmed to us in our meetings that they are committed to ensuring genuine reforms and bringing to justice those responsible for the most serious violations,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “Now is the time to implement these commitments and seize this extraordinary moment of opportunity to secure the democratic, rights-respecting reforms that so many Sudanese took to the streets at great risk to themselves to achieve.”

Human Rights Watch

South Sudan

South Sudan rival leaders agree to form coalition government

South Sudan’s rival leaders on Thursday announced they have agreed to form a coalition government just two days before the deadline, a breakthrough after months of delays and a major step in the emergence from a five-year civil war that killed nearly 400,000 people in the world’s youngest nation.

The rival leaders had twice missed deadlines in the past year to form the transitional government that is expected to lead to elections in three years’ time, much to the impatience of the United States and others. Without that new government, many feared, South Sudan might slide into fighting again.

Opposition leader Riek Machar told reporters in the capital, Juba, he and President Salva Kiir agreed that after the government’s formation they will resolve any outstanding issues laid out in a September 2018 peace deal. Machar said he is confident they will address them all.

Associated Press

South Sudan warring sides ‘deliberately starving’ citizens: UN

South Sudan officials diverted millions of dollars of state funds that are badly needed by civilians as the country staggers away from civil war, a United Nations commission said on Thursday.

The commission also accused rival fighters of “deliberately starving” people for strategic gain.

“Today in South Sudan, civilians are deliberately starved, systematically surveilled and silenced, arbitrarily arrested and detained and denied meaningful access to justice,” the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan said in a report.

The bleak report comes two days before a crucial deadline for the nation’s rival leaders to join forces in a coalition government.

Aljazeera