News Briefs 25 May 2021

Southern Africa

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe court orders Mugabe’s body be exhumed

A traditional court in Zimbabwe has ordered former First Lady Grace Mugabe to exhume the body of her late husband Robert Mugabe.

The court says Mugabe must be reburied at the Heroes Acre in Harare.

Grace Mugabe is also instructed to pay five cattle and two goats for improperly burying her husband.

Mugabe died in 2019 at the age of 95 and was buried in the courtyard of his home in Kutama, 90 kilometres west of the capital Harare. 

eNCA 24 May 2021

Naledi Pandor to deliver maize meal to Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa

South Africa’s International Relations and Co-operation Minister Naledi Pandor will be in Zimbabwe on Africa Day to officially hand over the first consignment of food aid to assist the neighbouring country’s needy citizens, her department said.

The maize meal is meant for Zimbabweans who were affected by severe flooding linked to Cyclone Idai in 2019, the department of international relations and cooperation (Dirco) said in a statement.

“(Zimbabwe President) Emmerson Mnangagwa will receive the consignment on behalf of the people of Zimbabwe at the State House in Harare,” Dirco spokesman Clayson Monyela said.

IOL 24 May 2021

Eswatini

eSwatini teachers lead protest against police brutality after law student’s death

Senior Magistrate Nonhlanhla Dlamini has been appointed to lead a probe into the matter.

Teachers in eSwatini have taken to the streets in a protest against police brutality.

The Swaziland National Association of Teachers led the march to the Manzini regional police head offices to deliver a petition.

The protest comes after a law student, Thabani Nkomonye’s body was found dumped in bushes in an area called Nhlambeni.

The incident sparked a public outcry after allegations emerged that the 25-year-old was killed by the police.

SABC News 18 May 2021

Democratic Republic of Congo

Sexual violence survivors in DR Congo caught in crisis of ‘catastrophic magnitude’

On a recent visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Dr. Natalie Kanem, the head of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the UN’s sexual and reproductive health agency, bore witness to the horrific legacy of sexual violence in the country, which is undergoing one of the world’s longest-running humanitarian crises.

‘The men broke my body and shattered my soul’

 “We waited for hours in the distribution point until they eventually told us to go home. Hungry and empty-handed, I walked with three other women and two little girls. It was dusk, and I heard the little girls scream.

“I turned around and, in the dim light, I saw men and boys coming towards us. They grabbed us and they were jeering when they distributed us among them, including the children. Five men took turns raping me and violating my body. My last thought before I lost consciousness, was how pure evil can exist in this world.”

UN News 19 May 2021

DR Congo orders Goma evacuation after Mount Nyiragongo erupts

Authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo have urged residents of the eastern city of Goma to evacuate after a volcano overlooking the area erupted.

Lava from Mount Nyiragongo approached Goma’s airport late on Saturday, as thousands of residents carrying mattresses and other belongings fled the border city on foot – many towards the frontier with Rwanda. The lava flow has now stopped after reaching Goma’s suburbs, AFP news agency reported.

Nyiragongo’s last eruption in 2002 killed 250 people and left 120,000 homeless.

It is one of the world’s most active volcanoes and is considered among the most dangerous.

“The evacuation plan for the city of Goma has been activated,” Communications Minister Patrick Muyaya tweeted late on Saturday. “The government is discussing the urgent measures to take at present.”

Aljazeera 22 May 2021

East Africa and the Horn

Somalia

Back from the brink? Somalia’s political crisis explained

In late April, after months of political tensions, forces loyal to Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmajo” exchanged gunfire in Mogadishu with those fighting for the opposition. The country teetered on the brink of all-out civil war.

The political crisis has come on top of a series of humanitarian disasters – the result of the long-running conflict with al-Qaeda linked insurgents al-Shabab, recent flash floods, and a predicted drought that, all told, will leave more than six million people in need of aid.

At the heart of the dispute has been Farmajo’s determination to stay in office for two years beyond the end of his term on 8 February, ostensibly to enable the holding of delayed elections. It was a move backed by the country’s lower house, but not the upper house, and a furious opposition – led by two former presidents – says the extension is simply a power grab.

New Humanitarian 20 May 2021

Somalia Provisional Constitution: Discussions of Politics, Religion, and Women

In August 2012, Somali delegations in the capital, Mogadishu, overwhelmingly approved the country’s third constitution since its independence in 1960. The atmosphere at the time was festive and full of hope, looking forward to peace for a country that has suffered so much hardship. Today, after more than eight years, Somali leaders still have not agreed on the completion of clauses and the date of the popular referendum for the 143-article constitution. Critics describe this stagnation as resulting from the immaturity of Somali politicians, and political turmoil, including the controversial decision to extend President Farmajo’s mandate by two years.

Despite the slowdown in the political process around the constitution, public discussions are still ongoing. In a January 2017 poll of 1,422 Somalis over the age of 18, 95% answered that they were aware of the new constitution. The debate is split between politicians: liberal, open-minded, and more focused on constitutional issues related to power, influence, and wealth sharing; and the general public: closer to the conservatives and more focused on issues of religion and women.

On the political dimension and the reasons for not completing the articles of the constitution, legal expert Mohamud Abdi, who lives in Mogadishu and whom I interviewed over the phone, suggests, “The dialogue with Somaliland has stopped because it is still officially part of Somalia and the constitution should address its interests and concerns.” A second reason, he says, is “The power struggle between the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) and Federal Member States (FMS) and the lack of agreement on wealth sharing formulas, which has been postponed under the constitution to be solved later.” However, in my opinion, the underlying cause is worse than that: it is the failure of society to hold politicians and lawmakers accountable, not to mention the absence of checks and balances among government branches.

International Policy Digest 29 April 2021

Central African Republic

The young are key to avoiding old mistakes in Central African Republic

When the government of Central African Republic signed a peace deal with the leaders of 14 armed groups in 2019, there was hope the country might turn a corner after years of conflict that have forced one in four people from their homes. But the agreement contained at least one major flaw: It failed to include the voices of CAR’s youth.

Fast forward two years, and the deal is severely strained. Armed group leaders who signed it have formed a new rebel movement – the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) – which recruited heavily from young people as it swept through the country earlier this year.

Responding to the crisis, CAR’s government – which has won back territory from the CPC in recent months – has announced plans for a new national dialogue process. Its success will be predicated on foregrounding the views of young people, and addressing their vulnerability to rebel recruitment.

As both a Central African and a peacebuilder, I have seen first-hand the risks facing CAR’s youth while working with young people and conducting research over the past two years in the northwestern regions of Paoua and Bossangoa – two areas badly affected by armed group violence in the country.

New Humanitarian 24 May 2021

IMF Staff Completes Mission to the Central African Republic

An International Monetary Fund (IMF) team led by Mr. Édouard Martin conducted a virtual mission from May 4 to 20, 2021, to discuss a staff-monitored program with the authorities.

At the conclusion of the mission, Mr. Martin issued the following statement:

“The Central African authorities and the staff of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) discussed economic policies and structural reforms that could form the basis of a staff-monitored program (SMP). These discussions will continue in the coming days so as to reach an agreement that could be submitted for approval to IMF Management once the prior actions have been implemented. The 7-month SMP will aim at helping the authorities address the economic challenges caused by the security crisis and the pandemic. Its satisfactory implementation would allow for the resumption of discussions under the Extended Credit Facility (ECF) supported program in the first half of 2022.

“The deterioration of the security situation at the beginning of the year and the prolonged closure of the trade corridor between Bangui and Cameroon have had a substantial social and economic impact. The cut-off of the country’s main source of supply led to a sharp rise in consumer prices and affected production owing to a lack of inputs. While the reopening of the corridor has allowed trade flows to resume, they remain lower than in the past. Even assuming it continues to recover gradually over the next few months, economic activity is expected to contract slightly this year, compared to the 3½ percent growth expected before the security situation deteriorated. After rising sharply at the beginning of the year, inflation is expected to decline gradually, to just over 3 percent year-on-year by the end of 2021. Owing mainly to lower imports, the current account deficit would decline to about 6½ percent of GDP in 2021 from 8½ percent of GDP in 2020.

IMF 21 May 2021

Sudan

ICC hears first war crimes case from Sudan’s Darfur conflict

Prosecutors have accused a man of being a “feared and revered” militia leader behind a campaign of deadly raids in Sudan’s Darfur conflict, in the build-up to the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) first trial linked to the violence.

The war crimes prosecutors said on Monday that Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman was also known as Ali Kushayb, a senior commander of thousands of government-backed “Janjaweed” fighters during the height of the conflict between 2003 and 2004.

Abd-Al-Rahman, wearing a face mask and a dark suit, did not speak as a court officer read out 31 charges against him, including persecution, murder, torture and rape.

He has yet to make a plea, though his defence team has argued in earlier legal filings that Abd-Al-Rahman is not the man known as Ali Kushayb, among other arguments.

Aljazeera 24 May 2021

Sudan declares state of emergency in coastal state after tribal violence

Sudan declared a state of emergency and imposed a night curfew in some parts of the coastal Red Sea state on Monday, after tribal violence that killed at least five people, a statement and state media said.

The statement by the state governor media office gave no details of the clashes and did not mention casualties.

However, state news agency Suna quoted a local medical official as saying the clashes left at least five people killed and 13 wounded.

The report said the clashes broke out at some areas in the city of Port Sudan.

TimesLive 25 May 2021

South Sudan

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.

What needs to be done is clear. Whether South Sudanese leaders choose or are willing to do so is another question. Will South Sudan’s leaders break the cycles of violence by offering justice, truth, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence for the victims of the war they started, or will they continue to promote and shield war criminals?

Mail& Guardian 20 May 2021

UN urges South Sudan to ensure safety of aid workers

A United Nations envoy in South Sudan has condemned the brutal killing of an aid worker in Panyijiar County on Friday and urged the government to ensure the safety and security of humanitarians in the country.

“This is utterly unacceptable. Attacks against civilians and clearly-identified humanitarian assets constitute a serious violation of international humanitarian law,” Alain Noudehou, humanitarian coordinator in South Sudan, said in a statement issued on Sunday evening.

Noudehou condemned the attack on a clearly marked humanitarian convoy, including an ambulance, a few kilometers away in a separate incident reported on the same day in Koch.

In the first incident, the UN agency said, a South Sudanese doctor who was working for the International Rescue Committee (IRC) was killed inside a health facility in Ganyliel Payam.

Almost at the same time, an IRC convoy, including an ambulance, carrying 10 aid workers, was shot at by unknown gunmen on the outskirts of Guol Village, southeast of Koch Town, Unity State, but the humanitarians managed to escape the attack.

CGTN Africa 24 May 2021

North Africa

Western Sahara

Madrid says Western Sahara independence leader must answer legal case in Spain

A Western Sahara independence leader at the centre of a diplomatic dispute between Rabat and Madrid must answer legal charges in Spain before leaving the country, Spain said on Sunday.

Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya said last month that Polisario Front leader Brahim Ghali had arrived in Spain from Algeria for medical treatment.

Spain’s decision to host Ghali without telling Morocco has angered Rabat, which regards Western Sahara as part of Morocco and says Ghali is using travel documents provided by Algeria and a false name.

Gonzalez Laya said that when Ghali has recovered from health problems, he should answer a case at Spain’s High Court before he returns to his own country.

Reuters 23 May 2021

Fresh Dispute Erupts Between Spain and Morocco Over Western Sahara Leader

A diplomatic dispute between Morocco and Spain over Madrid’s decision to host a leader of the Western Saharan independence movement has soured what had been improving relations across the Mediterranean Sea.  

Brahim Ghali, the leader of the Polisario Front, which wants for independence of the Sahrawi people in Western Sahara, is being treated at a hospital in Logroño in northern Spain, after he was infected with COVID-19.  

His presence in Spain has angered Morocco which has accused the leftist government in Madrid of endangering relations with Rabat.  

The Polisario Front fought a long war against Morocco to win the independence of the disputed Western Saharan territory. Despite a truce in 1991, both sides have been at loggerheads for years.  

Voice of America 10 May 2021

International News Briefs

Palestine

ANC to hold solidarity picket in support of the people of Palestine

The African National Congress (ANC) will on Tuesday hold a national solidarity picket in support of the people of Palestine. Deputy Secretary-General, Jessie Duarte, and other alliance partners will lead the pro-Palestinian picket to be held outside the Isreali Embassy in Pretoria.

The ANC has expressed its opposition to the colonial occupation of Palestinian land by the Israeli regime.

The ANC reaffirms its unwavering commitment to stand firmly on the side of the people of Palestine in their struggle to achieve freedom and self-determination.

SABC News 25 May 2021

Biden discusses Gaza ceasefire with Egypt’s President el-Sisi

US President Joe Biden has thanked Egypt for “its successful diplomacy” and coordination with the United States to reach a ceasefire to end 11 days of Israeli military attacks on the Gaza Strip and rocket-fire towards Israel.

In a statement on Monday, the White House said Biden discussed efforts to rebuild following the deadly assault on the besieged Palestinian territory in a phone call with his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

“The two leaders consulted on the urgent need to deliver humanitarian assistance to those in need in Gaza and to support rebuilding efforts in a manner that benefits the people there and not Hamas,” the statement read.

Monday’s phone call came as Biden dispatched US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to the region to meet with Israeli and Palestinian Authority (PA) leaders this week, as well as visit Egypt and Jordan.

Aljazeera 25 May 2021

Myanmar

Myanmar detains American journalist for local news magazine

Danny Fenster, the managing editor of Frontier magazine, is being held in Insein prison after being detained at Yangon airport as he prepared to leave on an international flight, the independent Myanmar magazine has said.

Fenster, who is from the Detroit area in the United States, previously worked for Myanmar Now, another independent news group. He is the fourth foreign journalist to be detained since the military seized power in a coup on February 1.

Freelancers Robert Bociaga, from Poland and Yuki Kitazumi, from Japan, were deported after their arrests. Nathan Maung, a US citizen who was picked up in a raid on his Kamayut Media office, faces “fake news” charges and appeared in court earlier this month.

Aljazeera 25 May 2021

Myanmar Junta Threatens to Dissolve Suu Kyi’s Party Over Election Fraud

Myanmar’s junta has threatened to dissolve the political party of ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi over alleged voter fraud in the 2020 election, an official said.

Union Election Commission Chair Thein Soe said Friday the investigation into November’s election result was almost complete.

“What shall we do with the (National League for Democracy) party that (acted) illegally. Should we dissolve the party or charge those who committed this (illegal activity) as traitors of the nation? We will analyse and consider taking this action,” he said, in a video posted on a local media outlet’s Facebook account.

The election commission met with political parties on Friday to discuss potential changes to the electoral system but NLD representatives did not attend.

Junta leader Min Aung Hlaing has justified his 1 February power grab by citing alleged electoral fraud in the November poll won by Suu Kyi’s NLD party in a landslide.

EWN 23 May 2021