News Briefs 27 March 2020

Zimbabwe

Proceeds of Looting Through Sakunda Holdings – Enough is Enough of this Nonsense

Firstly, it was the Dema project which Kudakwashe Tagwirei was given a tender of over USD 1 billion and prices were inflated to suit the whole clan of looters. As we speak the project collapsed prematurely and someone was supposed to go behind bars, but as the norm, he was protected.

This money belonged to the state. We have more than half a million civil servants who are languishing in poverty including those who signed for the project. Generators were bought, prices of goods and services were inflated, invoices were signed and goods were never delivered. It was reported that Kudakwashe Tagwirei walked away with nearly USD500mln on the Dema project alone.

If you pass through Dema you will be devastated. From the Dema project, the same company was awarded a tender to supply inputs during Mugabe regime, and he withdrew millions of dollars from central bank, RBZ without approval and proper procedures from Finance Ministry. If you go right now majority of central bank staff, top Finance Ministry officials have received huge perks, houses and cars from this individual using State money.

Zim Eye

Covid-19: US$2,7m hospitals deal

Sakunda Holdings will inject US$2,7 million towards the refurbishment of two hospitals as part of private sector initiatives to support Government efforts in fighting Covid-19.

The two medical facilities — Rock Foundation Medical Centre and St Annes’ — both in Harare, will be equipped with modern equipment to render them useful after lying idle for years.

This comes at a time when Zimbabwe recorded its first Covid-19 death on Monday following the death of Zororo Makamba.

The first consignment of the equipment, part of which was sourced from China, is arriving in the country today.

It is understood that the last batch of the equipment will arrive on April 6, after which modalities for opening the facilities would be worked out.

Herald

Mater Dei, Masca set up COVID-19 wing

The Medical Aid Society of Southern Africa (Masca) is leading an initiative to capacitate Mater Dei Hospital in Bulawayo to establish an isolation and treatment wing for coronavirus patients.

Masca has sent an SOS for $65 000 to purchase ventilators, while other donations in kind or labour are required to set up a fully-equipped COVID-19 treatment and isolation facility in the city.

Once completed, Mater Dei will become the only fully-functional medical facility to handle COVID-19 cases in Bulawayo following reports that Thorngrove Infectious Diseases Hospital was ill-equipped.

News Day

Swaziland

Swaziland Journalist ‘Tortured by Police After Criticising Absolute Monarch in Newspaper Articles’

Swaziland journalist and former government cabinet minister Mfomfo Nkambule said he was tortured by police after he wrote articles critical of absolute monarch King Mswati III.

Nkambule writes for the online newspaper Swaziland News.

In an interview he told the newspaper that on Thursday (12 March 2020) police raided his home and seized electronic gadgets. He said he was taken to Manzini police regional headquarters where he was harassed and tortured.

He told the Swaziland News, ‘They tortured me saying I risk being charged with high treason and under the terrorism law.’ He said police complained about articles he wrote critical of the political system.

All Africa

Swaziland King in Self-Isolation Over Coronavirus Threat, More Cases Confirmed

King Mswati III, the absolute monarch of Swaziland (eSwatini), is in self-isolation due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Lusendvo Fakudze, the Ludzidzini Palace Governor, confirmed this to the Swaziland News, an online newspaper.

Fakudze said no one was allowed to see the King. He would not comment on reports circulating on social media that King Mswati was no longer in Swaziland.

Meanwhile, the Swazi Minister of Health Lizzie Nkosi reported that three more people in the kingdom had tested positive for the virus, also known as covid-19. The known total of positive cases is four. One person who earlier tested positive has since recovered.

In a statement Nkosi said 37 test results had been received. Swaziland has no resources and tests have to be sent to neighbouring South Africa for analysis. The population of Swaziland is about 1.3 million people.

All Africa

Democratic Republic of Congo

DR Congo president imposes state of emergency to contain coronavirus outbreak

The president of the Democratic Republic of Congo closed the country’s borders and imposed a state of emergency on Tuesday to contain the coronavirus outbreak, following other African nations that have imposed strict measures in recent days.

The virus is spreading quickly across Africa, infecting more than 1,700 people across 45 countries, challenging already fragile healthcare systems. Senegal and Ivory Coast on Monday declared their own states of emergency, imposing curfews and travel restrictions on their populations.

Over 40 people have contracted the virus in the DRC and three have been killed, raising concerns of a widespread outbreak, especially in the crowded capital Kinshasa where social distancing is an alien phenomenon.

“Coronavirus does not need a passport, visa or voter’s card to circulate in our house,” President Félix Tshisekedi said in a speech to the nation on Tuesday. “We find ourselves at war with an invisible adversary.”

France24

DR Congo president’s aide dies of Covid-19

The third person to die of Covid-19 complications in the Democratic Republic of Congo is a respected human rights lawyer and an aide of President Félix Tshisekedi.

Jean-Joseph Mukendi wa Mulumba was the acting head of President Tshisekedi’s legal advisory council.

He is likely to have contracted the respiratory illness during his trip to France for a medical check-up.

Mr Mulumba has been a key figure in DR Congo opposition politics and in human rights circles.

He was a close aide of the late veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, the father of the current president.

As a lawyer he represented opposition politician Moïse Katumbi and others who opposed former President Joseph Kabila’s attempt to extend his term in office.

Nehanda Radio

Central African Republic

UN Condemns Peacekeeper Killing in Central African Republic

The U.N. Security Council and the secretary-general on Monday strongly condemned the killing of a U.N. peacekeeper in the Central African Republic during an attack by members of the mainly Christian anti-Balaka group.

The U.N. peacekeeping mission in the country said the peacekeeper from Burundi was killed on Sunday when troops were trying to stop an attack in Grimari in the center of the country that began when anti-Balaka fighters under the command of Dimitri Ayoloma opened fire on the homes of the mayor and a regional official.

The mission said U.N. peacekeepers in Grimari, in Ouaka province, immediately intervened trying to end the assault, and the rebels deliberately opened fire against them, fatally injuring the soldier from Burundi.

New York Times

UN expert calls for urgent ceasefire to protect population from COVID-19

The Central African Republic (CAR) is struck by the COVID-19 pandemic and is heading towards a certain health disaster if hostilities do not stop immediately, said Yao Agbetse, UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in CAR.

“I call for an immediate halt to attacks by armed groups in order to create an environment conducive to a stronger national mobilization against COVID-19. All the energies of the country must be channelled towards the collective fight against the pandemic.

“I urge the Central African Government to continue implementing the measures it adopted to limit the spread of COVID-19, and to ensure that they are respected throughout the national territory in accordance with fundamental principles of human rights, including those related to public health, which require proportionate, necessary and non-discriminatory actions.

“I urge the Government to continue implementing its commitments made under the February 2009 Peace Agreement and to accelerate the implementation of transitional justice mechanisms. The Government must restore State authority, including through the redeployment of health services and workers in areas still under the control of armed groups.

Relief Web

Somalia

Foreign minister, UN envoy discuss Somalia reconciliation process

Somalia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Ambassador Ahmed Isse Awad received at his office in the capital, Mogadishu, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General to Somalia, James Swan

Ambassador Awad and Mr Swan discussed cooperation between the UN and Somalia, the country’s political process among other issues.

A statement from the minister’s office said that Ambassador Awad and James Swan also discussed national reconciliation in Somalia and political dialogue between Somalis that would pave the way for an environment suitable for the conduct of the 2020/2021 elections.

Somali Affairs

IMF, World Bank clear Somalia for debt relief, normal ties to world

The IMF and the World Bank on Wednesday said Somalia had taken the necessary steps to begin receiving debt relief, a key move that will allow the Horn of Africa country to lower its $5.2 billion in external debt to around $557 million.

The decision will immediately normalise Somalia’s relations with the world after 30 years outside the international financial system, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank’s International Development Association said.

Somalia’s Paris Club creditors—including the United States, Russia, Italy and France – are expected to make a decision on debt relief for Somalia by the end of March, they said in a joint statement.

The announcement by the IMF and the World Bank will send a powerful signal to Somalia’s Paris Club and non-Paris Club creditors about the country’s future and the intense reform efforts it has undertaken over the past eight years.

Somali Affairs

Sudan

Unamid chief lauds Sudan peace talks, calls on Abdelwahid to join

The Secretary-General of the United Nations has called for ‘an immediate global’ ceasefire in the fight against the spread of the coronavirus. The head of the UN-AU joint peacekeeping Mission in Darfur (Unamid) urges the Sudanese parties to the current peace talks in Juba to reach a final agreement as soon as possible.

On Monday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres issued an appeal for ‘an immediate global’ ceasefire in conflict-affected areas around the world, calling on warring parties to put ‘armed conflict on lockdown’ and engage in dialogue, facilitate humanitarian access, and dedicate all efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19).

In a press statement on Thursday, Unamid Joint Special Representative Jeremiah Mamabolo reflected on the ongoing Sudanese peace negotiations in the South Sudanese capital of Juba.

“I note with encouragement that a cessation of hostilities agreement between the Transitional Government of Sudan and the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) was reached since 21 October 2019.

Dabanga Sudan

A new Sudan faces corona with little support

Sudan’s new government shows readiness to rebuild the country and aid agencies want to scale up, but both lack international support to act now.

“An historic opportunity is being lost in Sudan right now in the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic. The new government shows a willingness to provide for people in need and remake the country, but we need the international community to rally to its relief now. A huge opportunity to cement positive change and defend vulnerable communities from the unfolding health crisis may be lost if they don’t,” warned Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).

The first cases of coronavirus are confirmed in Sudan, with numbers likely to increase exponentially in coming weeks as in other countries with limited resources to prevent the spread.

After more than 30 years with repressive government, Sudan has now embarked on a path to peace and human rights. A citizen-led revolution in 2019 brought in a transition government that indicates it is willing to put Sudan’s people first.

Norwegian Refugee Council

South Sudan

South Sudan: root causes of ongoing conflict remain untouched

Since civil war broke out in December 2013 in the young state of South Sudan, the country has made 12 peace agreements. None of which have brought sustainable peace. The parties continue to battle over control of resources, mostly oil.

As a result of this continuing conflict, about 7.5 million people need humanitarian aid. Three United Nations agencies have warned an estimated 6 million people in the country are facing an acute food shortage. More than 2 million have fled to neighbouring countries and more than a million are displaced within the country.

A recent United Nations report found that the country’s political leaders had been pillaging national finances and enabling local militias to attack civilians.

The Conversation

Coronavirus: vulnerable populations at risk in South Sudan

South Sudan’s government has put measures into place to prevent the spread of Covid-19 but millions of displaced people are at heightened risk.

Like other governments across the globe, South Sudan has planned a series of measures to curb the spread of the new coronavirus pandemic.

A ban has been placed on inbound and outbound flights, affected citizens have been ordered to self-quarantine and mass gatherings are prohibited.

But the reality on the ground in the world’s youngest country is complex. Seven years of civil war have torn the country apart, contributing to very limited services and creating emergencies for displaced people and prisoners.

Africa News

Western Sahara

Morocco/Western Sahara: Court hands journalist four month suspended sentence and fine for a tweet

A court in Morocco has today handed journalist Omar Radi a four-month suspended prison sentence and a fine of 500 Dirham (52 USD) for a tweet in which he criticized an appeal court judge for upholding heavy prison sentences against activists from the Hirak El-Rif social justice movement. Responding to the court’s decision, Heba Morayef, MENA Regional Director at Amnesty International, said: “he should never have been put on trial in the first place or sentenced for expressing peaceful views on social media” Heba Morayef.

“Omar Radi is an outspoken critic of Morocco’s crackdown on human rights defenders, who has shone a spotlight on the country’s appalling treatment of journalists and dissidents. In April 2019, he tweeted about the unfair trial of a group of fellow activists, and he is now being punished for this.

“Even though today’s verdict means Radi won’t serve time in prison, he should never have been put on trial in the first place or sentenced for expressing peaceful views on social media.  This sentence reinforces the message that anyone in Morocco who stands up for human rights will be punished.

Amnesty International

HRW calls attention to Western Sahara, Morocco dispute

An investigation into the treatment of Sahrawi activists in Western Sahara, including an incident reportedly captured on video last year, has renewed attention to territorial and self-determination claims that have spanned decades in a North African region Morocco claims as its own.

“The video shows more than a dozen policemen in civilian clothes, many coming in and out of police cars, arresting four people,” said Human Rights Watch on Thursday. The activists were celebrating the prison release of a Sahrawi leader when they were detained while driving and beaten by the side of the road.

Two of the four people were arrested and sentenced to prison terms. A United Nations investigation determined the vehicle had rammed a police barrier before it was pulled over, but HRW maintains that even if that were true the occupants still were subject to an unwarranted attack by authorities.

Africa Times