News Briefs 23 May 2019

Democratic Republic of Congo

Fears of Ebola pandemic if violent attacks continue in DR Congo

Health officials have warned that the second-deadliest outbreak of Ebola may spiral out of control unless attacks by armed groups on medical facilities and workers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) stop.

Speaking to reporters in Geneva on Wednesday, Oly Ilunga Kalenga, the DRC’s health minister, said the government of his country was struggling to contain the spread of the virus amid a spike in violent attacks against doctors and hospitals that were dangerously delaying the emergency response.

“The real emergency we face right now is security,” Kalenga said on the sidelines of the World Health Assembly, which is under way this week in the Swiss city.


United Nations strengthens Ebola response in Democratic Republic of the Congo

With the Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo now in its tenth month and the number of new cases increasing in recent weeks, the United Nations announced today measures to strengthen its response and end the outbreak.

The Ebola epidemic has claimed more than 1,200 lives and the risk of spread to other provinces in the eastern Congo as well as neighbouring countries remains very high. A third of those who have fallen ill are children, which is a higher proportion than in previous outbreaks.

Under the leadership of the Government and Congolese communities, with support from the UN and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the response has contained Ebola in parts of Ituri and North Kivu provinces. But ongoing insecurity and community mistrust in the response continue to hamper access to communities. This is hindering efforts by WHO and the Ministry of Health to detect sick people and ensure access to treatment and vaccination, ultimately leading to more intense Ebola transmission.



Somalia and Kenya tensions rise in ‘visa row’

Somalia has raised “great concern” with the Kenyan government, accusing it of detaining and confiscating the passports of Somali ministers trying to enter the country.

The Somali foreign affairs ministry contacted Kenyan authorities on Tuesday, in a letter authenticated by AFP, complaining about the treatment of MPs and cabinet ministers who were forced “to return to Mogadishu”.

The ministry “notes with great concern the recent decision of the government of Kenya to restrict the issuance of entry visas”, the letter said.

Somali radio reported that a deputy minister and two Somali senators, holding diplomatic passports, were barred from entering Kenya on Monday.


Somalia’s population, international partners must be energized to sustain country’s ‘upward trajectory,’ says senior UN official

Briefing the Council, Raisedon Zenenga, the Deputy Head of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), reported that the country had made significant progress on its economic and security sector reforms. There had also been progress on the inclusive politics agenda as well, including the constitutional review process and preparations for the universal suffrage elections.

“The Federal Government has decided to apply the same rigorous approach to bring accountability and transparency to the security sector,” he said, noting, among other recent steps, the completion in March of biometric registration of all Somali National Army soldiers. All 16,000 soldiers registered were now receiving their salaries directly into their bank accounts. 

“This has cut out middle men, reduced corruption, and ensures regular payment of salaries to military personnel. It also paves the way for rightsizing the National Army,” said Mr. Zenenga.  

UN News

Central African Republic

Armed group kills more than 30 in Central African Republic: UN

More than 30 people were killed and many more wounded when an armed group attacked villages in north-western Central African Republic on Tuesday, the UN’s peacekeeping mission (MINUSCA) said.

The massacres took place in several villages near the town of Paoua, not far from the Chad border, Major General Pascal Champion, head of MINUSCA’s police component, said at a press conference in Bangui on Wednesday.

“Criminals arrived and opened fire” on the residents, he said.

Thirty-one people were killed in Koundjili and Lemouna. At least three others were killed in Bohong.

Local security forces also reported the deaths of 15 people in Maikolo village, but this information was not immediately confirmed by the UN.


French-Spanish nun killed in Central African Republic

A 77-year-old French-Spanish nun who taught impoverished women and girls in volatile Central African Republic has been decapitated, local authorities said Wednesday.

Sister Ines Nieves Sancho’s body was found early Monday in the village of Nola, located in the remote southwest near the borders with Cameroon and the Republic of Congo.

Local authorities condemned the killing but suggested it may not be linked to the ongoing sectarian bloodshed between militia groups that first engulfed the country in 2013.

“Elsewhere it’s the rebels who kill, but in Nola people kill to get rich,” said Jean Marc Ndoukou, an official in the village located about 135 kilometers (83 miles) from Berberati, the country’s third largest city and traditionally a center of diamond production.

Washington Post


Sudan military wants to cede power quickly: general

Sudan’s military wants to hand power to a democratically elected government as soon as possible in the tumultuous aftermath of former president Omar al-Bashir’s overthrow, a prominent general said in an interview published on Wednesday.

“We got tired. We want to hand over power today not tomorrow,” Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, deputy leader of the ruling military council, told Egypt’s state newspaper Al Ahram.

The council has been locked in talks with an alliance of protest and opposition groups demanding civilian leadership for a new sovereign body to oversee a three-year transition to democracy.

Talks were adjourned in the early hours of Tuesday, with no new date set for their resumption.


Radical group threatens war on Sudan’s military council if Sharia law dropped

In an ominous sign for peace in Sudan, a radical group has threatened to wage war on the country’s Transitional Military Council (TMC) to defend the North African country’s Islamic legislation.

The warning follows statements released by Mohamed Al Gizouli, a leader of the radical Movement of the Support of Sharia and the Rule of Law who threatened to wage war on the transitional council in the event of handing over power to the opposition Freedom and Change forces, the Sudan Tribune reported.

This warning comes on the heels of the continuing stalemate between the opposition and the TMC over the composition of a new interim authority for Sudan with the former wanting a civilian majority and the latter wanting more control for the military.

On Tuesday, talks between Sudan’s ruling TMC and an alliance of protesters and opposition groups failed for the second day in a row to produce a breakthrough on the country’s political transition.

The Citizen

South Sudan

AU envoy Raila urges Kiir to maintain peace in South Sudan

Africa Union special envoy for Infrastructure Raila Odinga has urged President Salva Kiir to prioritise peace and development in South Sudan.

Mr Odinga said improved infrastructure would help South Sudan connect with its neighbours.

He added that peace in South Sudan would promote stability in the young nation and enable South Sudan to engage neighbouring countries.

Mr Odinga and Mr Kiir met on Wednesday evening in Juba to discuss regional integration and infrastructure, prior to the African Union Summit slated for July this year in Niger.

The EastAfrican

S. Sudan to close some embassies over financial woes: official

The South Sudan government plans to close a number of its overseas embassies due to financial constraints.

Mr Mawien Makol, the spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Ministry, told local media Juba is finding it difficult to manage most embassies abroad.

“We thought of closing a number of embassies so that we can manage the remaining ones well,” Mr Makol said, as quoted by The Dawn newspaper in Juba.

An official at the ministry, who requested anonymity because he is not authorised to talk to the media, told the The EastAfrican that the country has not decided on exactly how many embassies will be closed.

The EastAfrican

Western Sahara

UN envoy for Western Sahara quits over health reasons

The UN envoy for Western Sahara, Horst Koehler, has resigned from his post due to health reasons, nearly two years after he took up the peacemaking mission, the United Nations said Wednesday.

Koehler, a former German president, was appointed in August 2017 to lead UN efforts to end the decades-old conflict between Morocco and the Algerian-backed Polisario Front.

The 76-year-old envoy told UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during a phone call on Wednesday that he was stepping down for health reasons, a UN statement said.

Guterres “deeply regretted the resignation but said he fully understood the decision and extended his best wishes to the personal envoy,” it added.


Namibia, Morocco dismiss talk of strained relations over Western Sahara

The Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah says there is no tension hindering bilateral relations between Namibia and Morocco.

The minister, however, says Namibia will continue to call for self-determination of Western Sahara, which remains occupied by Morocco.



Hundreds March in Swaziland After Forced Evicitons Leave Families Destitute

Hundreds marched at Malkerns in Swaziland / eSwatini to protest the forced eviction of people last year who have been left homelss and destitute.

It happened on Saturday (18 May 2019) and was jointly organised by a variety of civil society organisations

Times Sunday, reported one of the evicted people saying, ‘We eat from the bins as we do not have homes and cannot practice farming.’

The newspaper also reported Mhlatase Dlamini saying, ‘Our houses were brought down and our belongings were taken and dumped. My children are all over and eat from dustbins.’



Four human rights activists arrested in Zimbabwe

Authorities in Zimbabwe have detained four human rights campaigners on their return home from a foreign trip and seized their cellphones and laptops, lawyers said Tuesday.

“They were detained upon disembarking from a South African flight at Robert Mugabe International Airport last night and held for several hours without access to their lawyers,” Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights spokesman Kumbirai Mafunda said.

The men arrested late Monday were identified as George Makoni, 38, advocacy officer for the NGO Centre for Community Development Zimbabwe; Tatenda Mombeyarara, 37, co-ordinator for lobby group Citizens Manifesto; Gamuchirai Mukura, 31, executive director of Community Tolerance Reconciliation and Development (COTRAD); and Nyasha Mpahlo, 35, governance officer at Transparency International Zimbabwe.


‘Open for business’ Zimbabwe has little to show for $27 billion

When Emmerson Mnangagwa took over the leadership of Zimbabwe from Robert Mugabe in November 2017, he promised to revive the moribund economy and adopted a mantra he’s repeated regularly ever since – “Zimbabwe is open for business.”

Mnangagwa, always wearing a scarf in the colours of the Zimbabwean flag, quickly set about traversing the globe to woo investment needed to revive the heavily indebted economy. By March, he’d been on at least 30 foreign visits, including trips to the US, Russia, China, the Middle East and the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Together with the enthusiastic support of state media, Mnangagwa and his officials have announced more than $27bn of planned investment ranging from new platinum mines to steel mills and hydropower dams.

Eighteen months into his rule, he has little to show for it.


Africa in General

Congo Republic’s IMF bailout at risk over debt deals -document

Advisers to Congo Republic’s government have warned it that there is a “major risk” the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will reject its bid for a long-sought bailout, according to a letter obtained by Reuters.

Negotiations for an IMF programme have dragged on since 2017, with the IMF’s executive board demanding the central African oil producer ensure the sustainability of its debt, most of which is owed to China and oil traders.

At the end of its most recent mission to Congo this month, an IMF team said it was finally ready to support a three-year credit facility. But any programme would first need to be approved by the Fund’s board.


U.N. creates new Ebola chief role to tackle security, political issues in Congo

The United Nations named an Emergency Ebola Response Coordinator on Thursday, creating a new position to boost efforts to contain a 10-month epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo that has killed more than 1,200 people.

The drive to rein in the deadly virus has been hampered by attacks on treatment centres by armed groups operating in Congo’s lawless east as well as by distrust among local residents, many of whom view the disease as a conspiracy.

The outbreak has been contained in parts of Ituri and North Kivu provinces, but risks of spreading to other provinces and neighbouring countries remain “very high”, the United Nations and World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement.


Malawi poll center: Opposition claims govt trying to rig elections

Malawi’s electoral commission (MEC) chief, Dr. Jane Ansah has called upon stakeholders including political parties to refrain from announcing premature results, pledging that the commission will start official declaration of results as soon as 20% of votes cast have been tallied.

Citizens went to the polls on Tuesday, casting their votes to elect a president, members of parliament and local government councillors.

President Peter Mutharika is seeking a second term, and is being challenged by his deputy, Saulos Chilima, and the leader of the country’s biggest opposition party, Lazarus Chakwera.

In this article, we provide updates from the time polls opened on Tuesday morning, to the time official results will be announced, which Ansah said will be within 8 days.

Africa News