News Briefs 01 December 2017

Bishops urge DRC president to vow to stand down

Influential bishops in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday urged President Joseph Kabila to pledge he will not seek a third term in office in order to ease fears of unrest.

Roman Catholic bishops last year helped broker a deal under which elections for a new president would be held in 2017.

However, the ballot has been delayed, with the country’s electoral commission blaming logistical problems.

Under international pressure, the mineral-rich but chronically poor and politically unstable country has now scheduled the vote for December 23 2018.


DR Congo: leaders of opposition group in police custody

Some senior opposition figures in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have been arrested by the police.

Martin Fayulu and Kabund leaders of opposition in the country are under the police custody for questioning for non-compliance of a government decision prohibiting demonstrations.

The opposition in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the movements of citizens had called on their members to go on the Streets on Thursday for a walk they call “walk of anger.”

An anger against President Joseph Kabila whose presidential mandate elapsed since December 2016.

Africa News


Somalia twin blast toll now at 512

More than 500 people were killed in twin bomb blasts in Mogadishu in October, a Somali committee looking into the attack said on Thursday, raising the death toll from at least 358.

In the incidents on 14 October, a truck bomb exploded outside a busy hotel at the K5 intersection lined with government offices, restaurants and kiosks. A second blast struck Medina district two hours later.

The impact of the truck bomb was worsened by it exploding next to a fuel tanker that increased its intensity and left many bodies being burnt or mutilated beyond recognition.

By 20 October, the government said the toll had reached 358.


Somalia participates in 16 Days of Activism campaign to end gender-based violence

On 27th November, the British Embassy hosted an event to mark the 16 days, bringing together activists, government representatives, NGOs and members of the international community.

In a round table discussion on the DFID funded CHANGES project, participants heard about the current state of play on gender-based violence issues in Somalia, particularly early marriage, FGM and intimate partner violence. Those present committed to continuing to work together to tackle harmful social norms that underpin such violence.

Speaking during the subsequent reception, UK Ambassador to Somalia, David Concar reflected on why tackling gender-based violence matters, and what the UK is doing to support Somalia’s women and girls.

CNBC Africa

Central African Republic

UN strongly condemns attack that kills peacekeeper in Central African Republic

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the Security Council have strongly condemned Sunday’s attack allegedly perpetrated by the anti-Balaka group against a convoy of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic, in which one peacekeeper from Egypt was killed and three others were injured.

“The Secretary-General offers his deepest condolences and sympathy to the family of the victim and to the Government of Egypt. He wishes a swift recovery to the wounded,” said a statement issued by his Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq following the attack, which took place on the Bangassou-Kongbo axis in the country’s southeast.

With this latest attack, hostile acts have claimed the lives of 13 peacekeepers in the Central African Republic since January 2017.

The statement said that the Secretary-General firmly recalls that attacks against UN peacekeepers may constitute a war crime and calls on the country’s authorities to investigate the attack to swiftly bring those responsible to justice.

UN News

U.N. asks Brazil for peacekeepers for Central African Republic

The United Nations has asked Brazil to send troops to join its peace mission in the Central African Republic, said Jean-Pierre Lacroix, the U.N.’s head of peacekeeping operations, in an interview on Monday.

The U.N. Security Council approved this month the deployment of an additional 900 peacekeepers to protect civilians in the impoverished landlocked nation, where violence broke out between Muslims and Christians in 2013.

Lacroix said violence had increased in the east, largely due to a security vacuum left by the departure of Ugandan troops, who had been part of a separate U.S.-supported African Union task force tracking Lord’s Resistance Army rebels.



Sudan armed groups still deploy child soldiers: UN

The United Nations said on Wednesday that some armed groups fighting in Sudan still deploy child soldiers, but acknowledged Khartoum’s efforts to prevent child recruitment into its forces.

Olof Skoog, chairperson of the UN Security Council’s working group on children and armed conflict, said armed groups including rebel factions were not implementing international regulations on children in conflict.

“We have made very strong appeals to the armed groups that they fully subscribe to international law when it comes to respecting children,” Skoog told reporters in Khartoum during a trip by the working group to Sudan.


Darfur militia chief to face military trial: Sudan minister

A powerful militia chief from Darfur, who was arrested by Sudanese forces after fierce fighting last week, will face a military trial along with his sons, a minister said Wednesday.

Musa Hilal, a former aide to President Omar al-Bashir, was arrested on Sunday by the country’s counter-insurgency unit, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), near his hometown of Mustariaha in the state of North Darfur.

Hilal will face a military trial as he led a unit of border guards that was part of Sudan’s armed forces, Minister of State for Defence Ali Mohamed Salem told parliament.


South Sudan

US threatens measures against South Sudan

The United States on Tuesday threatened to take unspecified measures against South Sudan’s government unless it moves to end the nearly four-year war and stop harassing UN peacekeepers and aid workers.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley put the onus squarely on President Salva Kiir to take action, telling the Security Council that “words are no longer sufficient.”

“The United States is prepared to pursue additional measures against the government – or any party, for that matter – if they do not act to end the violence and ease the suffering in South Sudan,” Haley said.


More than 40 killed as tribal tensions surge in South Sudan

A tribal militia killed at least 43 people in South Sudan’s central Jonglei state, local officials said on Wednesday.

The attack forms part of a cycle of tit-for-tat revenge killings that local authorities have so far been powerless to stop.

Raiders from the Murle ethnic group killed 20 men, 22 women and one child, and injured 19 people in the small village of Duk Payel on Tuesday, Jonglei Information Minister Jocab Akech Deng said.

The killings are the latest chapter in a chain of revenge attacks, cattle raiding, and child abduction between the Murle ethnic group and the Dinka Bor group.


Western Sahara

European activists denounce Morocco’s human rights violations in Western Sahara

The human rights violations perpetrated by Morocco in Western Sahara are numerous and daily, said Tuesday, in Brussels, the participants in a meeting on the situation of human rights in the occupied territories, denouncing the various attacks on the Sahrawis, notably the torture, population transfer and unfair trials.

During this meeting, organized at the European Parliament, Euro deputy Paloma Lopez lamented “the continuation of human rights violations” in occupied Western Sahara and the “excessive use of violence against the Sahrawi political prisoners.”

French lawyer of one of the prisoners of Gdeim Izik group Ingrid Metton, who attended the meeting, affirmed that these prisoners suffered serious violations since they were arrested, including arbitrary arrests and detentions, tortures and ill-treatments, violations of the right to a fair trial by the military justice and notably their condemnation on the basis of confessions obtained under torture.

Sahara Press Service

Morocco King says no to Western Sahara independence

Autonomy rather than independence, Morocco maintains its position on Western Sahara. For King Mohamed VI, no other solution can be envisaged to resolve the Saharan conflict.

The monarch said in a televised address on Monday that Morocco would not relent its claim over the territory.

His comments come amid renewed efforts by the UN to resolve the decades-old dispute.

“Past experiences should make it possible to meditate on the obvious: the problem is not so much to find a solution to this case … It is therefore up to the parties of origin of this conflict, to assume full responsibility for the search for a definitive settlement,” said Mohammed VI.

The UN Security Council adopted a resolution in April that called for a new push for talks between Morocco and the Polisario.

Africa News


Swaziland: King ‘Exploits Forced Child Workers’

King Mswati III, the absolute monarch in Swaziland, has been named in an global report on human trafficking for forcing children to work in his fields.

One organisation has called this modern day ‘slavery’.

It is not the first time the King has been criticised for using forced labour.

The annual Trafficking in Persons Report for 2017 from the United States State Department stated it had been reporting conditions in Swaziland for the past five years. It said, ‘Swazis are culturally expected to participate in the seasonal weeding and harvesting of the King’s fields and those who may refuse are subject to coercion through threats and intimidation by their chiefs.’


Swaziland: Chief Punishes Residents With Fine

Residents in Swaziland have been fined for not attending community meetings and paying ‘homage’ to their chief.

About 20 families have been affected in in the Southern Hhohho region, according to a newspaper report in Swaziland.

It happened at Mvutshini where 20 homesteads were fined E900 each (US$64) ‘for not attending community meetings and not paying homage to the Ezulwini chiefdom,’ the Observer on Saturday reported (25 November 2017).

In Swaziland seven in ten people live in abject poverty with incomes of less than US$2 per day.



Zimbabwe’s president names top military officers in new cabinet

Zimbabwe’s new president named his first cabinet on Thursday, appointing two senior military officers to key portfolios and dropping close allies of Robert Mugabe who resigned after the armed forces took control of the country.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa appointed as foreign affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo, the army major general who went on state television announcing the military’s take-over, a dramatic power grab which culminated in Mugabe stepping down a week later.

The long-serving airforce commander Perence Shiri also became the Lands and Agriculture minister, according to a statement released late Thursday night.


Zimbabwe declares Mugabe’s birthday a holiday

Zimbabwe has made former president Robert Mugabe’s birthday a public holiday, a state daily reported on Monday, nearly a week after the long-time ruler stepped down.

“It is hereby declared that February 21 of every year henceforth shall be a public holiday to be known as the Robert Mugabe National Youth Day,” The Herald newspaper reported, citing a government gazette.

The move follows intense lobbying by the ruling Zanu-PF party’s youth league and came weeks after the country’s biggest airport was renamed after the veteran politician who ruled Zimbabwe for nearly 40 years.




Africa in General

AU/EU Summit: Libya’s modern slavery, Western Sahara tensions under scrutiny in Abidjan

The theme of the three-yearly African Union-European Union summit which starts in Abidjan on Wednesday is “Investing in youth for a sustainable future”. A lot of good work will be done to increase youth employment, for example.

Much of the curiosity though is on what the expected 83 leaders representing 55 African and 28 European countries will do about slavery. And will Zimbabwe’s new President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was only sworn into office last Friday – after a de facto coup – attend? Also, will there be a rumpus between the “Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic” (SADR) and Morocco? SADR is one of the 55 official member states of the AU, though its territory, the Western Sahara, is claimed and occupied by Morocco. Morocco stormed out of the AU’s predecessor, the OAU, in 1984, because the SADR was admitted as a member.

Rabat returned to the AU fold this year but it has been creating scenes at previous AU meetings over the SADR’s presence. There was talk a few weeks ago that Cote d’Ivoire has not invited SADR to this week’s summit because of Morocco’s concerns. Eventually it was invited and said it would attend. But will Morocco again create a scene?

Dialy Maverick

Uhuru Kenyatta: back at the helm of a divided nation

Uhuru Kenyatta, who was sworn in on Tuesday for a second and final term after a bruising election season, is the son of Kenya’s founding president and a man who epitomises the country’s elite.

The 56-year-old US-educated multi-millionaire, whose family owns an array of businesses, properties and land, followed in his father’s footsteps when he defeated his rival Raila Odinga to become president in 2013.

However, securing a second term required an acrimonious and drawn-out process that has split the nation, handing him the tricky task of trying to heal deep tribal and political schisms.

At his inauguration in front of a capacity crowd at the 60 000-seat Kasarani stadium, he said: “I will devote my time and energy to build bridges, to unite and bring prosperity.”


Europe-Africa summit aims for evacuation of 3 800 migrants risking abuse

Leaders at an EU-Africa summit called Thursday for the immediate evacuation of nearly 4 000 distressed African migrants in Libya under a new drive to fight slave traders and traffickers.

Wrapping up a two-day summit in Ivory Coast’s economic capital, a top African Union (AU) official said there could be as many as 700 000 Africans stranded in Libya, where many have suffered atrocities and even been sold into slavery.

He said a fact-finding mission had seen one camp in Tripoli where all the residents, numbering several thousand, were “living in inhumane conditions” and were desperate to return home.

“We have agreed, along with the EU and the UN, to set up a task force for repatriating at least 3,800 people,” Moussa Faki Mahamat, head of the AU Commission, told reporters.