SALO Weekly News Briefs – 26 May 2020:

Western Sahara:

Source: President Geingob: Morocco should implement UN resolutions to decolonize Western Sahara

The President of Namibia, H.E. Hage Geingob, called on Morocco to implement UN resolutions to decolonize Western Sahara, in his speech on the occasion of Africa Day 2020.

“To date, except for the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), the rest of the 54 countries on the continent of Africa are now free and sovereign states”, Hage Geingob said.

He further called “on Morocco to implement the UN Security Council Resolution 690, which established the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), to implement the Settlement Plan for a referendum of self-determination for the people of Western Sahara, and thereby complete the former OAU’s primary mandate of Africa’s total decolonization.”

He recalled that “Morocco supported Namibia’s independence and has also joined the AU, of which it co-founded the predecessor (OAU) in 1963”, and therefore must respect the AU Constitutive Act. (SPS)

Sahara Press Service 26 May 2020

President Mnangagwa: Zimbabwe confirms position on the right of Western Sahara to self-determination

The President of Zimbabwe, H.E. Emmerson Mnangagwa, reaffirmed on Sunday his country’s position in favour of the right of the people of Western Sahara to self-Determination.

Speaking on the occasion of Africa Day, H.E. President Mnangagwa stated that “Zimbabwe continues to reaffirm its position on the right of Western Sahara to self-determination.”

He further indicated that “the cruel disposition of occupation and exploitation of a people by another, organized as foreign occupying power under whatever guise must be permanently expunged from our continent.”

“As we commemorate Africa Day, for us in Zimbabwe, we are reminded that we were not alone in our struggle for independence.

Africa stood by us. Unity and solidarity were a cornerstone in our victory. As the late Julius Nyerere, said “without unity there is no future for Africa”.

Sahara Press Service 26 May 2020

Zimbabwe

Govt Welcomes Removal of Its Banks from U.S. Sanctions List

Zimbabwe welcomed the U.S. decision Thursday to remove two of its banks from the sanctions list, saying the move will allow them to easily obtain credit to address the country’s moribund economy.

However, the ruling ZANU-PF party is calling for more from the U.S. and other Western countries that imposed the sanctions in 2002.

The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control gave Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe and Agricultural Development Bank of Zimbabwe a clean bill of health. Mthuli Ncube, the country’s finance and economic development minister, could not hide his joy over the news to reporters in Harare.

AllAfrica 25 May 2020

Abduction, torture of activists: Are Zimbabwe’s dark days back?

Zimbabwean authorities are fighting an image-damaging incident in which three female opposition activists were reportedly pulled from a police station and tortured.

The three women had staged a protest against food shortages that had worsened by a six-week lockdown to fight the coronavirus.

The beatings were so bad that mainstream opposition party, the MDC Alliance, appealed to the United Nations and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) for protection, saying its members are under siege.

The three, Zimbabwe’s youngest MP Joan Mamombe, and Cecilia Chimbiri as well as Netsai Marova, who are leaders of the opposition MDC Alliance’s youth wing, were found two days later dumped by the road 80 kilometres north of Harare.

The East African 24 May 2020

Eswatini

Swati editors flee to safety in SA

“Cops are back in my home. They are carrying guns. I managed to flee. Now in hiding.”

I woke up to this message from Eugene Dube, a Swati journalist, on Monday May 4.

Twenty-four hours later, Dube would be in South Africa, having found a shallow stretch of river to cross the Eswatini border.

Dube is not the only Swati journalist to run into problems with the authorities as a result of their coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. Zweli Martin Dlamini, the editor of the online publication Swaziland News, has also fled to South Africa after being arrested and allegedly tortured by the police.

Dressed in dark green to blend into the bush and evade soldiers’ eyes, with shoes and socks in his backpack, Dube stepped into the flowing river and quietly waded toward safety and away from a police force that had been harassing him for doing his job.

Mail and Guardian 21 May 2020

Assessing the Measures at Country Level – Case of Eswatini

The arrival of the novel Coronavirus in Eswatini on 14 March 2020, and the resulting Government lockdown measures, have brought fears of media repression and the violation of citizen rights. Reports of these have circulated in mainstream media and social media. This article assesses the ramifications of these measures on rule of law, human rights and freedoms, government rhetoric, political opportunism as well as the humanitarian situation.

Rule of law and emergency measures

The advent of the novel Coronavirus in Eswatini on 14 March 2020 led to the Government responding by instituting a ‘partial lockdown’ to contain the virus on 17 March 2020; then eased it for yet another ‘partial lockdown’ in the beginning of April 2020, then resorted to an almost total shutdown in mid-April, which was extended for a 21- day period – to end on 7 May 2020. Regulations dealing with the virus inter alia, empower the Minister of Commerce and Trade to prescribe which essential services shall be available for trade during the period of the national emergency.

AllAfrica 20 May 2020

Democratic Republic of Congo

DR Congo: Bloody Crackdown on Political Religious Group

 Police in the Democratic Republic of Congo repeatedly used excessive lethal force against a separatist religious movement in April 2020, killing at least 55 people and wounding scores more. The government crackdown against the Bundu dia Kongo occurred from April 13 to 24 in several towns in western Kongo Central province and in the country’s capital, Kinshasa.

The call by BDK leader Zacharie Badiengila, commonly known as Ne Muanda Nsemi (“the creative spirit” in Kikongo), for his supporters to “chase” out people who were not of Kongo ethnicity triggered the government response. The police raid against the group in the Kongo Central town of Songololo on April 22 resulted in 15 deaths and the raid on April 24 on Nsemi’s Kinshasa residence killed at least 33 people.

“Congolese authorities had a responsibility to respond to the BDK movement’s messages that incite ethnic hatred,” said Lewis Mudge, Central Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “However, the government response violated international standards on the use of force, causing a bloodbath.”

Human Rights Watch 19 May 2020

Rebels destroy 150 schools, 22 health centers

Over 200,000 people have also been displaced by COCEDO rebels in last 2 months, says UN radio.

Over the last two months some 150 schools and 22 health centers have been destroyed by rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to UN officials.

UNICEF said the schools and health centers were destroyed by Cooperative for the Development of Congo (COCEDO) rebels in the restive eastern part of the country, said UN radio in the republic on Saturday.

Over 200,000 people have also been displaced, and rampant rapes and killings were also reported, it added.

”More than 150 schools were damaged and looted in the Djugu, Mahagi and Irumu territories in the Ituri province by the armed group CODECO. 22 health centers have been destroyed along with large stocks of vaccines,” UNICEF said in a statement.

It said that children are the main victims of recent violence in Ituri, as a lack of access to shelter, nutrition, health, and education has made children particularly vulnerable to abuse, violence, and exploitation.

Anadolu Agency 24 May 2020

Central African Republic

Central African Republic confirms first COVID-19 death

Country has recorded 552 cases, 18 recoveries so far.

The Central African Republic on Sunday announced its first death from the novel coronavirus.

The Health Ministry confirmed the death, without providing information about the deceased.

The country has registered 552 COVID-19 cases and 18 recoveries so far, according to official figures.

The pandemic has killed more than 342,100 worldwide, with an excess of 5.31 million confirmed cases, while recoveries have surpassed 2.11 million, according to the running tally of the US’ Johns Hopkins University.

Anadolu Agency 24 May 2020

10,000 protective masks airlifted into Central African Republic

Working with partner NGOs, Plan International is sending urgent medical supplies to the country as it faces COVID-19. The organisation will deliver 1.3 metric tonnes of personal protective equipment (PPE) to 12 countries in the next 2 weeks.

Plan International has airlifted 10,000 protective masks into the Central African Republic (CAR) to support the war-torn country in combating COVID-19.

The aid cargo was sent on a humanitarian flight organised by a group of NGOs, including Plan International, with support from the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations department (ECHO).

The plane left Lyon for Bangui this morning carrying PPE and medical supplies contributed by 13 international aid agencies.

Relief Web 8 May 2020

Somalia

Somali MP and Jubaland VP Want AU Envoy Expulsion From the Country

The vice president of Jubaland Mohamud Sayid Aden and Federal lawmaker Abdirashid Hidig both have called for the expulsion of AU envoy to Somalia Francisco Madeira.

The officials say the envoy has totally lost faith by Somali people in his neutrality on the country’s internal affairs after using Ogaden clan in his UNSC brief on the country’s situation.

Madeira’s remarks irked Jubaland and prompted a quick backlash and growing calls for his removal by the opposition and the Federal State.

Jubaland says the envoy made a significant mistake by nullifying last April’s agreement between Jubaland President Ahmed Madobe and his rivals, in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.

AllAfrica 26 May 2020

Bomb Blast in Somalia Kills 4 During Eid Celebrations

At least four civilians were killed and more than 15 others were wounded in a bomb blast during Eid al Fitr celebrations outside the Somali town of Baidoa, witnesses said.

Two of the dead are children, according to reports from the scene.

The explosion occurred on Sunday afternoon as people performed traditional dances in a field near an internally displaced persons camp north of the town.

Somalia observed Eid al Fitr on Saturday but festivities continue for three days according to Islamic traditions.

A security official who could not be named says celebrations were held in the field Saturday without incident. He said he believes the bomb was planted before celebrations continued for a second day Sunday.

Voice of America 24 May 2020

Sudan

Sudan to establish police force to protect health workers

Sudan’s transitional authorities are working to create a police force to protect health facilities, the prime minister’s office said Saturday, as attacks against health workers and hospitals increase amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The move came after doctors across the country threatened Thursday to go on strike to pressure authorities to provide protection for health workers and facilities.

Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok met with representatives of doctors on Friday to find “decisive and strict solutions” to “the phenomenon of repeated attacks on health workers,” his office said in a statement.

The government will introduce a draft bill to provide protection to health workers, the statement said.

Egypt Independent 25 May 2020

Coronavirus in Sudan exposes new leaders

In our series of Letters from Africa, Sudanese journalist Zeinab Mohammed Salih writes that the government which took power after the overthrow of long-serving ruler Omar al-Bashir has failed to provide leadership during the coronavirus crisis.

“We managed to get rid of Omar al-Bashir. How come we cannot get hold of this tiny coronavirus?” said Akram al-Tom, the Sudanese health minister, amid the rapid rise in Covid-19 cases in western Europe and the US in March.

With Sudan now having the highest number of cases (more than 2,000) and deaths (around 100) in East Africa, many people are increasingly asking the question.

But Mr Tom is ducking the media.

The Ministry of Health has cancelled all press conferences – to abide by social-distancing rules – though it is unclear why it cannot hold them online.

BBC 25 May 2020

South Sudan

Victims of intercommunal violence in South Sudan deserve ‘justice, truth and reparations’: Bachelet

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Friday condemned a fresh wave of intercommunal violence in the world’s youngest nation, South Sudan, that has left hundreds of dead across 28 villages in Jonglei State, according to local authorities.

Three aid workers were among those killed.

“The reports from Jonglei State are appalling”, Michelle Bachelet said of fighting that broke out between 16 and 17 May, forcing thousands to flee their homes.

‘Recurring pattern’

“This recurring pattern of violence, which continues to claim lives in South Sudan, has to stop,” she said.  “I urge the Government to ensure measures are in place to investigate this violence and to ensure that those responsible are prosecuted, and that victims and their families have access to justice, truth and reparations.”

UN News 22 May 2020

South Sudan Covid-19 response: Sceptical, defiant and clumsy

In the course of the past week, people in South Sudan, especially the residents of Juba, the capital, have been alarmed by new developments in the country regarding the spread of Covid-19 and the government’s response to it. South Sudan was the last country in the East African Community to report a case of the novel coronavirus, on April 5. But since then, the country has experienced such a rapid increase in case numbers that it is finally waking up from a sense of complacency that had seized it up to now. The government has dissolved and reconstituted its High-level Task Force on Coronavirus and confirmed the largest increase of case number in a single week since the pandemic landed in the country. It announced that its First Vice President, Riek Machar, who headed the first Task Force, the Minister of Defence, the Minister of Information and most of the 15 members of the former Task Force have tested positive for the virus and are currently in isolation.

The disease has also felled prominent individuals, unquestionably driving home the fact that this disease does not discriminate on the basis of power or wealth. Officially, the total is now standing at 290 cases and counting. But many people suspect the disease has affected the country more than the government is able to ascertain with its limited resources and poor reach beyond Juba.

Daily Nation 21 May 2020