Weekly News Briefs 14 August 2020:

Zimbabwe.

Source: Human Rights Watch 11 August 2020.

End Inhuman Prison Conditions of Activists in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s authorities, including the Minister of Justice and prison officials, should immediately take measures to end the inhuman prison conditions in which prominent journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and Transform Zimbabwe Party leader Jacob Ngarivhume are being held.

Chin’ono and Ngarivhume, currently in pretrial detention at Chikurubi Maximum Prison in Harare, were arrested on July 20 for allegedly inciting public violence. The activists had helped expose high-level corruption in Zimbabwe and called for nationwide anti-corruption protests on July 31.

Lawyers from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, who are representing Chin’ono and Ngarivhume, told Human Rights Watch that prison officials repeatedly denied them the right to interview their clients in private. They also refused to allow them to give their clients warm clothing and food from outside the prison, even though, for medical reasons, the two cannot eat the Sadza (maize meal) provided in prison. As a result, the two men have no access to food and a diet prescribed along with their medication.

Human Rights Watch 11 August 2020

ANC: Africans Should Resolve Zimbabwe Political Crisis

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) says there is a political crisis in Zimbabwe, which needs to be resolved by Africans through various processes, including attempts by President Cyril Ramaphosa, who recently sent envoys to the neighboring nation to assess “difficulties” faced by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government accused of human rights abuses.

In an interview, ANC’s International Relations Committee chairperson Lindiwe Zulu said there is urgent need to resolve the political crisis in Zimbabwe.

“We have already said it from an ANC point of view that there is a crisis in Zimbabwe that needs us from a party-political angle as the liberation movement ANC plus Zanu PF liberation movement. It’s important for us to engage each other and go back to what has been happening in the past and how we got to where we are right now and then be honest and frank about what we need to do to help the situation. Zimbabwe is our neighbor; we cannot close our ears and eyes to that … What we think should be done is for both parties to be frank with each other about what is happening in Zimbabwe and we take it from there.”

Zulu said it is possible to resolve the crisis in Zimbabwe without the help of “outsiders”

Voice of America 12 August 2020

Mnangagwa blocks Ramaphosa envoys from meeting opposition leaders

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa barred President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Special Envoys from meeting the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and civil society in Zimbabwe on Monday, according to sources.

In the end, they only met the ruling Zanu-PF government and then returned home on Tuesday with only part of their mission accomplished.

Special Envoys Sydney Mufamadi, a former Cabinet minister, and Baleka Mbete, former Deputy President and Speaker of Parliament, were on an exploratory visit to see what South Africa could do to help Zimbabwe escape from its current political and economic crisis. They had made firm appointments with the two MDC formations and several civil society organisations.

But Mnangagwa told the South African delegation that he understood from his communication with Ramaphosa that Mufamadi and Mbete were “presidential envoys” and this was a government-to-government initiative so they should only be meeting the government. He said that, once they had reported back to Ramaphosa on their meeting with him, they could return to Zimbabwe to meet the MDC and civil society, if they still wanted to do so.

Daily Maverick 11 August 2020

eSwatini

Swazi workers and traders want to return to SA

Eswatini is a small country. At 17,400 square kilometres, it is smaller than the Kruger National Park. The kingdom’s economy, outside the sugar cane industry and forestry, is heavily dependent on its able and sometimes generous neighbour.

Of the about 1.2 million citizens, only a few are gainfully employed. As some slave away in factories owned by the Taiwanese, many go searching for bread in SA.

A small fraction marches through the 11 entry points with passports and permits, while the rest jump over fences (usually with the tacit permission of soldiers on both sides of the border). For decades, this has been the way of things. Then came the plague.

On the night of March 15, as Covid-19 seeped into the republic, President Cyril Ramaphosa went on television and, among other things, announced a hard lockdown. Almost all entry points on land and at sea would be closed on Thursday March 19, he said.

TimesLive 12 August 2020

Democratic Republic of Congo

Many killed in ethnic violence in eastern DR Congo

At least 19 civilians have been killed and two others wounded in attacks on three villages in the troubled eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) province of Ituri, a local chief said on Monday.

The attacks took place on Sunday in the Banyali Kilo area, Innocent Madukadala told AFP news agency, blaming the Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO), an armed group accused of ethnic attacks.

“They killed 19 people … some were killed by machete and others were shot dead,” he said.

CODECO is drawn from the Lendu ethnic group, a predominantly farming community who have historically clashed with the Hema, a group of traders and herders.

Aljazeera 10 August 2020

‘Ebola outbreak in DR Congo grave concern’

Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) Equateur province continues to be of grave concern, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday.

In its weekly Health Emergencies Bulletin, WHO Africa said the epidemic has been further complicated by coronavirus along with measles, and humanitarian crisis in the Central African country.

“There is a lack of funding for the response, particularly that is required to prevent further spread, and inadequate human resources for risk communication and engagement in affected health zones and hotspots,” it said.

So far, 84 Ebola cases have been reported in nine health zones in the province since the declaration of the 11th Ebola outbreak in the DRC on June 1, Doctors Without Borders said.

“In both Ebola virus disease and COVID-19, there is a need to sustain a strong and robust surveillance system in order to detect, isolate, test and treat new suspected cases as early as possible, to improve outcomes in potential cases, and to break all chains of transmission,” according to the WHO.

Anadolu Agency 11 August 2020

Central African Republic

US imposes sanctions on Central African Republic militia leader

The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on the leader of a Central African Republic-based militia group, the Treasury Department said, accusing the leader, Sidiki Abass, of human rights abuse, including directly participating in torture.

The Treasury Department in a statement said it had blacklisted Abass, leader of the Central African Republic-based militia group Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation, or 3R, which it said “has killed, tortured, raped, or displaced thousands of people since 2015.”

The US sanctions come after the United Nations Security Council Central African Republic sanctions committee-imposed sanctions on the militia leader on Wednesday.

Friday’s action freezes any of Abass’ US assets and generally bars Americans from dealing with him, in addition to the UN sanctions that obligate member states to impose an asset freeze and travel ban, the Treasury said.

“Today’s action signals that the United States will not tolerate those who commit human rights abuses and will prevent such actors from benefiting from the US financial system,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a separate statement.

Defence Web 11 August 2020

Stability Needed for CAR’s Upcoming Elections

In the run-up to the Central African Republic’s (CAR) 27 December 2020 elections, political manoeuvrings have started within both government and the opposition. Former president François Bozizé announced his candidacy after returning to CAR in December 2019, having spent nearly six years in exile. He is believed to still wield significant power on the political scene.

The country has been plagued by instability and violence since the end of 2012. This has deepened the destruction of an already weak state, damaging national cohesion and the social fabric. The African Union (AU) has led mediation efforts in CAR since 2017. But the peace agreement signed in February 2019 in Khartoum hasn’t resolved the conflict, which could undermine the organisation of elections and further destabilise the country.

Bozizé’s announcement of his candidacy for the presidential polls will surely heighten tensions. His eligibility is in question since he is still under United Nations sanctions, and there is also an international warrant for his arrest, issued by CAR for crimes against humanity and incitement to genocide.

AllAfrica 12 August 2020

Somalia

Outrage as Somali parliament drafts law permitting child, forced marriages

Somalia’s parliament has sparked outrage by replacing long-awaited legislation to protect women and girls from violence with a new bill permitting child and forced marriage.

The east African nation has high rates of child marriage and violence against women, including rape and female genital mutilation (FGM). The United Nations says 45% of women are married before 18, while 98% have undergone FGM.

In 2018, Somalia’s cabinet approved the landmark Sexual Offences bill aimed at criminalising a wide range of forms of gender-based violence including rape, child marriage and sex trafficking.

The bill sets out clear duties for police, investigators and prosecutors and provides specific protections for vulnerable groups such as children, people with disabilities and internally displaced people.

Reuters 11 August 2020

Somalia unveils ambitious reforms to lift economy

Somalia has seen her GDP grow by 2.8 and 2.9 per cent respectively in 2018 and 2019, with the country expected to grow by a further 3.2 per cent this year prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, what kind of reforms are being instilled to ensure economic stability? CNBC Africa’s Arnold Kwizera spoke to Gamal Mohamed Hassan, Minister for Planning, Investment and Economic Development for more.

CNBC Africa 12 August 2020

Sudan

Dozens killed in tribal clashes in eastern Sudan

At least 25 people have been killed in clashes between ethnic groups in a port city in eastern Sudan, according to a doctors’ association.

The Central Doctors’ Committee said in a statement on Wednesday that about 90 others were wounded in the fighting that began on Sunday between members of the Bani Amer and Nuba ethnic groups in Port Sudan, a key international trade harbour on the Red Sea.

Local media reported that several houses and shops were set on fire in the violence.

“This is not the first time that clashes have broken out between the Bani Aarem and Nuba tribes,” said Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan, reporting from Khartoum.

“This has been going on for years and has escalated for the past 12 months,” she added.

Aljazeera 12 August 2020

Violence in Sudan’s Western Darfur Forces 2,500 Into Chad, Reports UN Refugee Agency

Recent clashes in Sudan’s Western Darfur region has driven more than 2,500 people across the border into neighbouring Chad, the United Nations refugee agency has reported.

According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), over 80 per cent of the those arriving in the Chadian border town of Adré are women, children and the elderly – many of whom witnessed extreme violence.

Attacks, said to have been carried out by armed nomads, in the town of Masteri in Western Darfur killed 61 people from the Masalit ethnic community and injured at least 88 on 25 July. Houses were also reported to have been burned to the ground in the town and the surrounding villages.

“A 25-year-old woman told UNHCR staff that her husband was stabbed to death in front of her eyes and she had to run for her life with her three children, making the journey to Chad riding a donkey for one full day,” Babar Baloch, a spokesperson for the UN agency said at a regular media briefing, in Geneva, on Tuesday.

AllAfrica 11 August 2020

South Sudan

At least 81 dead as South Sudan’s disarmament erupts in violence

At least 81 people have been killed in the South Sudan region of Warrap State following heavy fighting between armed civilians and government forces carrying out a disarmament exercise, the military’s spokesman said on Tuesday.

Lul Ruai Koang told Reuters the two-day clashes erupted over the weekend after some armed youths in the Greater Tonj area started engaging the security forces.

It was not immediately clear what sparked the fight, he said, adding that an investigation has been started.

“Among the dead are 55 members of the security forces and 26 civilians. Another 31 servicemen were also wounded,” Koang said, adding that the numbers could rise.

The wounded security personnel were flown to the military hospital in the capital Juba for treatment, he said, adding that calm had returned to the area as authorities restored order.

IOL 11 August 2020

EAC calls for sanctions on defaulting Burundi, South Sudan

When the East African Legislative Assembly passed a motion on June 30 to censure South Sudan and Burundi for defaulting on their annual payments, it also recommended that the Council of Ministers take further action against the two countries.

The East Africa Community’s 41st Extraordinary Meeting of the Council of Ministers was held on August 4, under the chairmanship of Rwanda’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation Vincent Biruta.

In a report signed by all six ministers representing the partner states, Mr Biruta says, “The Sectoral Council considered the proposed schedule of sanctions. It recommended to the Council to direct the Secretariat to submit the proposed Schedule of Sanctions for input and report to the 40th Ordinary Meeting of the Council.

“The meeting recalled that the 37th Meeting of the Council directed the Secretariat to submit to partner states the proposed schedule of sanctions and requested that the Secretariat accordingly submit the proposed schedule of sanctions by the August 31, 2020.”

The East African 13 August 2020

Western Sahara

Western Sahara is a non-self-governing territory, says EU

High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, reaffirmed that the EU “considers Western Sahara as a Non-Self-Governing Territory, whose final status will be determined by the outcome of the ongoing UN process.

In a new written reply to a question addressed to him by Polish MEP Janina Ochojska, Borrell recently stated that “the EU position on Western Sahara (occupied by Morocco since 1975) is fully aligned with UN Security Council resolutions”.

To this end, Borrell stressed that “the EU considers Western Sahara as a Non-Self-Governing Territory, whose final status will be determined by the outcome of the ongoing UN process,” while reaffirming the EU’s support for the UN process.

Sahara Press Service 09 August 2020