News Briefs 24 November 2020

Zimbabwe

Mnangagwa’s capture of judiciary a red flag for state failure

In Harare, citizens bemoan the demise of Mugabe’s rule, stating that things have worsened under the new government. For many, the situation in the country has actually worsened since Mnangagwa took over.

Just last month, judges in Zimbabwe wrote a letter to the president and the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission, outlining judicial capture as the major challenge affecting the Judiciary.

The letter, dated 26 October 2020 claims the Judiciary was under siege, with judges being captured thereby unable to independently execute their duties without interference from the executive and state agencies.

‘Traces of judicial capture and lack of independence’

Section 164 of the Zimbabwe constitution calls for the independence of the judiciary, stating that the courts are independent and subjected to the constitution and the law.

“The independence and effectiveness of the courts are central to the rule of law and governance,” reads Section 164 (2), of the Zimbabwe constitution.

Judges have accused the Chief Justice, Luke Malaba, of overseeing court judgements, many of which are operating out of fear of going against the government line rather than being objective.  Justice Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi also told legislatures in Parliament that the courts were not captured.

The African Report 23 November 2020

White farmers returning to once-seized land

Zimbabwe’s dispossessed white farmers are trickling back to their land, this time as tenants to Black farmers, officials from the country’s governing and opposition parties claimed Monday.

In an interview with Anadolu Agency, George Makombe, a top official of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party and liberation war fighter, said reports of Black farmers renting out the land they repossessed from white farmers two decades ago are true.

“Yes, there are resettled farmers in underhand dealings with returning white farmers to whom they are renting out land. But very soon, the government and ZANU-PF will expose them,” Makombe told Anadolu Agency.

Tendai Biti, vice president of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change Alliance, made similar claims to the media recently.

Anadolu Agency 24 November 2020

eSwatini

Eswatini Prime Minister in hospital, tests positive for Covid-19

Eswatini prime minister Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini was admitted in hospital with mild symptoms of Covid-19 on Monday.

“Doctors have since recommended that he be admitted to hospital this morning [Monday] for monitoring and recuperation,” said government spokesperson Sabelo Dlamini in a statement.

Mandvuo Dlamini announced a week ago that he tested positive for the novel coronavirus officially known as Covid-19, and was self-isolating at home. At the time he said he was asymptomatic and feeling well.

On Saturday he urged Emaswati and people around the world to send messages of support to those in isolation or in hospital because of the corona virus.

IOL 23 November 2020

Democratic Republic of Congo

Former militia leader sentenced to life for war crimes

A former militia leader in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has been sentenced to life in prison for war crimes and mass rape, a decision hailed by the United Nations as a blow to the “impunity” provided to armed groups in the country.

Ntabo Ntaberi Sheka was convicted of “murder, rape, sexual slavery and enlisting children under 15 years old”, a military court ruled on Monday at the end of a trial that lasted two years.

The UN’s DRC representative, Leila Zerrougui, said the ruling showed that “impunity is not inevitable”.

Sheka founded the Nduma Defence of Congo (NDC) militia, active in DRC’s restive North Kivu province, where he claimed to be fighting the Hutu rebels of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).

Aljazeera 24 November 2020

DRC: Ongoing violence in Salamabila

People living in the Salamabila area in Maniema province in DRC are being drawn into ongoing conflicts over access to Mount Namoya, a natural gold mine. Exchanges of hostilities between armed groups are frequently accompanied by attacks on civilians, sexual violence, looting, destruction of property and other human rights violations. MSF is alarmed by the high number of incidents of sexual violence that our teams are seeing. Since the beginning of this year, we have treated close to 1,000 survivors. 85% of the perpetrators were armed men.

“Violence against the civilian population in Salamabila has almost become normalized, and it´s happening even outside of active conflict”, says MSF head of mission Carlos Francisco. “It´s having a serious impact on the physical and mental health of the people living here.”

On the evening of November 11, two people with serious gunshot injuries arrived in health structures supported by Médecins Sans Frontières. A third person, with stab wounds, sought help the following morning. Our teams also treated several survivors of sexual violence.

The incident is just the latest example of the violence that the population in the Salamabila area has been experiencing for years. Violence, kidnappings, looting and destruction of property are commonplace.

Relief Web 19 November 2020

Somalia

Somalia at a crossroad, UN envoy urges ‘deepened’ political consensus

The “broad political consensus” reached in September that ended a two-year stalemate in Somalia must be “preserved and indeed deepened”, the country’s UN envoy told the Security Council on Monday.

Although the agreed model of voting “regrettably fell short” of the constitutional requirement for parliamentary elections based on the principle of universal suffrage, Special Representative James Swan, who also heads the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), acknowledged that it did reflect “wide Somali political consensus and ownership”. 

“In addition to the support of the President and federal member state leaders, the indirect model was also endorsed by other key Somali stakeholders, including political parties and civil society, and was ratified by the Federal Parliament”, he said via videoconference.

UN News 23 November 2020

Somalia: Ensure Justice in Health Worker Massacre

Authorities in Somalia should intensify their investigation into the abduction and apparent summary execution of seven health workers and a pharmacist in May 2020, Human Rights Watch said today. Six months on, government investigations have not resulted in arrests or prosecutions, while the victims’ relatives await justice.

On May 27 at about 1:30 p.m., five masked gunmen entered the compound of a mother and child healthcare clinic run by a nongovernmental organization, the Zamzam foundation, in Gololey village, Balcad district, Hirshabelle state. Several witnesses said the gunmen – three in Somali military uniforms, one in a seemingly light blue police uniform, and another in civilian clothes – separated seven male workers from the five female workers. They blindfolded the men and brought another man, who ran a nearby pharmacy, to the clinic. The gunmen then left with the men. On the afternoon of May 28, residents found the men’s bullet-ridden bodies outside the village.

“The heinous summary execution of seven health workers and a pharmacist left a rural community reeling from the loss of their loved ones and in dire need of health care,” said Laetitia Bader, Horn of Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The possible involvement of security forces in this appalling incident puts an even greater onus on the government to thoroughly investigate and prosecute those responsible and appropriately compensate the victims’ families.”

Human Rights Watch 23 November 2020

Central African Republic

Central African Rep. community leaders discuss peace

Community leaders and rebel leaders from northern Central African Republic (CAR) are taking part in peace and reconciliation talks on Tuesday ahead of the Dec. 27 presidential poll, according to the UN mission in the country.

The event is taking place at the National Assembly building in the capital Bangui with the attendance of President Faustin Archange Touadera, Mankeur Ndiaye Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in CAR, civil society leaders, rebel groups and foreign diplomats.

“This meeting is a decisive turning point towards the completion of the momentum for reconciliation,” Ndiaye said at the meeting, urging various actors in the northeast to put the interest of the nation at the center of the peace and reconciliation talks.

Northern CAR, on the borders of Darfur, Bahr-el-Ghazal and Chad, has always been marred by clashes between the Rouga, Goula, Kara, Chadian Arabs, Sara, Hausa and the Janjaweed communities.

Anadolu Agency 10 November 2020

Central African Republic refugees return from DR Congo

Hundreds of Central African Republic refugees have returned from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) – the first such move since the COVID-19 pandemic forced border closures, according to the UN Refugee Agency.

In a statement late Monday, the UNHCR said the voluntary repatriation operation of refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR) started in Nov. 2019 “but was put on hold in March 2020 as the two countries had closed their borders to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.”

“The coronavirus pandemic had halted refugee dreams to return home, like many other human aspirations,” UNHCR Deputy Representative in DRC Pierre Atchom said.

“This resumption of refugee returns marks another chapter in the lives of many refugees. They can go home, embracing their country – putting behind their life in exile.’’

Anadolu Agency 17 November 2020

Sudan

Seven Sudanese Doctors Die from COVID-19 in 10 Days

Sudanese health authorities said Sunday that seven medical doctors died from COVID-19 in 10 days, a development that reflects Sudan’s sharp rise in cases in recent weeks. Nearly 100 deaths were recorded in the past month.

A statement issued by Sudan’s ministry of health said the seven doctors “worked tirelessly” to treat COVID-19 patients, prevent the spread of the ailment, and protect the lives of the Sudanese people. COVID-19 is the illness caused by the coronavirus.

The government called their deaths a huge loss for the country as it continues to fight the pandemic and described the doctors as “true heroes,” who died defending their people.

Voice of America 23 November 2020

Israel Delegation to Sudan Talks Agriculture, Health Care Cooperation

Israel sent a first delegation to Sudan to discuss potential economic and humanitarian cooperation on Monday after the countries announced a U.S.-brokered agreement on October 23 to take steps toward establishing relations, a source said.

The talks focussed on how Israel might shore up Sudan’s agriculture, food security, water supplies and health care, the source, who declined to be identified by name or nationality, told Reuters.

The Israeli delegates also met separately with representatives of the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum, the source said. Israeli and Sudanese officials had no immediate comment. Nor did the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.

Aviation data tweeted by Haaretz’s Avi Scharf showed that a chartered Turkish plane made a rare Tel Aviv-Khartoum return flight on Monday.

Haaretz 23 November 2020

South Sudan

Violence, insecurity continues to plague South Sudan communities

Over 1,000 people have been killed and more than 400 abducted in the past six months in intercommunal violence in South Sudan, amid fears that tensions may worsen with the onset of the dry season, the UN envoy for the country has said.

David Shearer, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for South Sudan, warned of increased risk of conflict with the start of the dry season, in December-January, as people start moving towards sources of water for their cattle.

“I think we can anticipate increased tensions”, he said at a press conference on Tuesday, explaining that losses of cattle in floods earlier this year and poor economic conditions could exacerbate the situation.

The problems need to be “nipped in the bud” before they escalate into violence, added Mr. Shearer, calling for the appointment of officials at the county level “to fill the vacuum of power that has existed since the transitional government was formed.”

Mr. Shearer, who heads the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), also underlined an “urgent need to breathe fresh life into the peace process, which is currently stalled.”

UN News 18 November 2020

South Sudan: Awut Deng Acuil appointed first woman to head a university in the country

For the first time in the history of Southern Sudan, a woman is becoming president of the board of governors (BOA) of a university. Following a presidential decree published in the state media, Awut Deng Acuil was appointed to head the board of governors of Bahr El Ghazal University in the west of the country. The 57-year-old was Minister of Education since last February. Once again, her career path promotes gender equality in the country.

This is not the first time that Awut Deng Acuil has written the history of his country. In August 2019, she became the first southern Sudanese to become foreign minister, the achievement of an extraordinary journey.

Married young, she spent many years in exile in Kenya with her children, while her husband fought in the war between North and South Sudan until he lost his life.

Awut Deng Acuil then became a staunch campaigner for peace, human rights and gender equality. Early on, she became involved in a number of organisations, also training generations in conflict resolution.

With a degree in political science, she built up a reputation that led her to participate in many peace negotiations, particularly between North and South and between the Nuer and Dinka tribes.

Her activism was rewarded internationally in 2002 when she became the second African woman to receive the Interaction Humanitarian Award, after Graça Machel, wife of Nelson Mandela.

Med Africa Times 24 November 2020

Western Sahara

Western Sahara Clashes Fuelled by ‘Frustration’ Over Status Quo

Armed clashes between Morocco and the Polisario Front reflect the movement’s frustration with a three-decade status quo that has frozen its dreams of independence in the Western Sahara, analysts say.

The group, backed by Morocco’s arch-rival Algeria, has long demanded a referendum on independence in the territory as provided for by a 1991 UN Security Council resolution.

Morocco has offered autonomy but insists it will keep sovereignty over the former Spanish colony.

But after a 1991 ceasefire deal crumbled earlier this month “taking up arms again is a question of survival for Sahrawis”, said Algerian political analyst Mansour Kedidir.

Morocco in early November accused the Polisario of blocking a key highway for trade with the rest of Africa, and launched a military operation to reopen it.

Defence Post 23 November 2020

The failed diplomacy between Morocco and Polisario

The call was scheduled in advance on November 13 at 18:00 GMT.

But that day, Omar Sidi and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had to change the premise of their conversation from questions of sovereignty over the disputed territory of Western Sahara to managing the crisis unfolding on the ground, where flares of violence between the Polisario Front – which Sidi represents at the UN ­­­– and Morocco erupted that morning.

Morocco had already spoken to the secretary-general about the issue but said it set up a “security cordon” over what it claims was the Polisario militia presence blocking the Guerguerat crossing, situated on an important trading road with neighbouring Mauritania.

“In the face of provocations from the militias of the Polisario, the Kingdom of Morocco had no other choice but to assume its responsibilities in order to put an end to the deadlock situation generated by these actions and restore free civil and commercial movement,” the Moroccan ministry of foreign affairs said in a statement.

Aljazeera 18 November 2020