News Briefs 01 October 2021

Southern Africa Focus:

Zimbabwe Central Bank freezes 30 accounts over illegal activities

Zimbabwe’s central bank has frozen the bank accounts of 30 people accused of illegally exchanging foreign currency through mobile phones and social networks, it said on Tuesday.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe said in a statement on Tuesday it had identified 30 people “abusing mobile telecommunication services and other social media platforms” for “illegal foreign exchange transactions and money laundering”.

Their accounts have been frozen, and they are now banned from banking for two years. They also face being blocked by telephone operators.

The Zimbabwean government has been trying to promote the local currency since it was temporarily abandoned in 2009 in favor of the US dollar due to hyperinflation.

Africa News 29 September 2021

19 Arrested at Zimbabwe Pre-Election Protest

Nineteen people, including 10 journalists, were arrested Thursday as Zimbabwe’s main opposition staged a protest at being excluded from preparations for the next elections.

The journalists were released without charge two hours later, while nine protesters were still being held in the capital Harare.

About 40 supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change-Alliance (MDC-Alliance) tried to enter offices of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, which was meeting on preparations for the 2023 elections.

The commission has excluded the party from the pre-election meetings, which the MDC-Alliance argues puts it at a disadvantage in the runup to the polls. All other parties are allowed at the meetings.

“The regime is panicking,” party spokesperson Fadzai Mahere.

EWN 30 September 2021


Students walk out of classes in Eswatini’s ongoing pro-democracy movement

Three months after police violently suppressed pro-democracy protests in Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland and Africa’s last absolute monarchy, the movement has carried on quietly. Young people have played an important role in the protests, with the last wave of the opposition centred around school boycotts at various high schools and universities around the country throughout the month of September. Videos online show crowds of students leaving their classes in protest.

Eswatini is a small, landlocked country in southern Africa. Its leader, King Mswati III, has ruled for 35 years by decree. Officially, at least 27 people were killed in the frenzied protests that erupted in Eswatini in late June 2021. However, rights groups maintain that this number may actually be much higher, closer to 100.

Initial protests dwindled after several weeks full of looting, burning tyres and buildings, and violent police reprisals. But high school and university students have continued to mobilise quietly, organising walkouts, and delivering petitions to parliamentary representatives.

The Observers 27 September 2021

European Union continues to support Eswatini’s food insecure people through the World Food Programme

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is grateful a generous contribution of €500,000 (US$ 423,500) from the European Union (EU) that will help meet the needs of 53,600 vulnerable Swazi households through cash transfers.

The EU’s funding will be used to scale up WFP’s cash transfers operations to reach families hardest-hit by the impacts of a poor harvest, rising food prices and the prolonged secondary effects of COVID-19 in the rural, urban and peri-urban areas of the Manzini, Lubombo and Hhohho regions. According to a recent government-led assessment by the Eswatini Vulnerability Assessment Committee, close to 27 percent of Eswatini’s population (317,000) will be at high risk of hunger over the next six months.

Monthly cash transfers will be delivered via a mobile money platform established in partnership with mobile service provider MTN. The money can then be used to purchase food items at selected stores that are owned and operated by local retailers, which in turn helps boost the local market.

Africa News 29 September 2021

Democratic Republic of Congo

WHO horrified over sexual exploitation by aid workers in DR Congo

World Health Organization (WHO) staff were among 83 aid workers who sexually abused women and girls while tackling the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a report finds. The abuses, which included nine allegations of rape, were committed by both national and international workers between 2018 and 2020.

The report comes after more than 50 local women reported sexual abuse. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it was “inexcusable”. The 35-page report was produced by an independent commission following an investigation.

The commission, which interviewed dozens of women who had alleged they were offered work in exchange for sex, found that 21 of the 83 alleged perpetrators were employed by the WHO.

BBC 29 September 2021

Summary killings, human-rights abuses surge in eastern DRC

According to the UN’s Joint Human Rights Office, 293 civilians were killed in August, including 63 women and 24 children.

The United Nations has said summary killings in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) soared in August, driven by armed groups but also security forces.

In a news conference in the DRC’s capital, Kinshasa, on Wednesday, the UN peacekeeping mission MONUSCO said 739 cases of breach of human rights were recorded last month, compared with 492 in July.

These resulted in the deaths of at least 293 civilians, including 63 women and 24 children, according to the estimate, compiled by the UN’s Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) in the DRC.

Aljazeera 29 September 2021

East Africa and the Horn


Somalia: ‘Sustained focus, investments’ needed to boost women’s political participation

Unresolved issues surrounding parliamentary quotas, and women’s participation in elections in Somalia were highlighted by UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed in the Security Council on Tuesday, with the aim of increasing their involvement in the political process.

Briefing ambassadors under the Women, Peace and Security agenda, she said that her most recent trip, earlier this month, was aimed at boosting women’s involvement, including in upcoming parliamentary elections.

“I made this second visit to Somalia because women’s political participation is a game changer in our efforts to achieve sustainable peace, development and more resilient and inclusive societies”, said Ms. Mohammed, stressing that a 30 per cent quota is a crucial first step towards the equal representation of women in all sectors of life – from business to public service, and from elections to appointments. 29 September 2021

Somalia: Somaliland Elects Senators to Somalia’s Parliament

Delegates from Somalia’s northern region of Somaliland on Wednesday elected six senators to serve in the next Federal Parliament, in spite of lack of interest in a part of the country that has declared its independence.

The vote, held in Mogadishu, saw 46 delegates from the region elect six legislators, who will nonetheless cement Somalia’s hold on Somaliland as part of its territory.

The first seat was won by the Speaker of the outgoing Senate, Abdi Hashi Abdullahi, receiving 44 votes while two abstained. His opponent, Said Omar Hussein, quit the race just before the voting, indicating that Abdullahi ran unopposed.

All Africa 30 September 2021

Central African Republic

Central African Republic: ICGLR Encourages Cease Fire in CAR

The International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) encouraged, this Thursday, the Government of the Central African Republic (CAR) to declare a ceasefire “ASAP” in order to pave the way for peace in that country.

The encouragement is expressed in the final communiqué of the Third Mini-Summit of the CIRGL on the political situation prevailing in CAR, which the Angolan capital, Luanda, hosted today (Thursday).

In the document, the ICGLR Heads of State and Government consider the ceasefire declaration “an essential factor for the success of the entire process and the creation of a favorable climate for peace and national reconciliation”.

They recall that the aforementioned declaration stems from the commitment made by the leaders of armed groups in that country.

All Africa 16 September 2021

Central African Republic adopts plan to address gender inequality in the AIDS response

Alida Nguimale is a survivor. She has been living with HIV for 21 years in the Central African Republic. Some 10 years ago, she lost two of her children to AIDS-related illnesses. At the time, she was unaware that she was living with HIV, and life-saving antiretroviral therapy and medicine to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV were rare in the Central African Republic.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of a national workshop on HIV and gender, co-organized by the Ministry of Gender, the Ministry of Health, the National AIDS Council and UNAIDS, in Bangui, Central African Republic, on 30 and 31 August, Ms Nguimale explained how she was expelled from her home by her abusive partner, who accused her of bringing HIV into the household. She also recounted her helplessness in the face of denial and violence by her partner, who had refused to accept his own HIV-positive diagnosis.

Ms Nguimale’s story illustrates the vulnerability to HIV of women in the Central African Republic and the barriers that they face in accessing health services. More than 56% of all new HIV infections in the country in 2019 were among women and girls, and 60% of all people living with HIV in the country are women. According to data from the MICS-6 survey published in 2021 by the government, with the support of the United Nations, 23.6% of women and girls between the ages of 15 and 49 years were married or entered into a marital union before the age of 15 years. More than 21% of central African women had undergone female genital mutilation. In January 2021 alone, 340 cases of gender-based violence, including 72 rapes, were collected by the gender-based violence information management system in the Central African Republic.

UN AIDS 8 September 2021


Tear gas fired at thousands rallying for civilian rule in Sudan

Sudanese security forces have fired tear gas to break up a demonstration in the capital Khartoum held in support of a civilian-led transition to democracy.

An attempted coup last week, which officials blamed on soldiers loyal to the previous government of Omar al-Bashir, laid bare divisions between military and civilian groups sharing power during a transition that is meant to run to 2023 and lead to elections.

An estimated 20,000 people, many of whom came by train from Atbara and Madani, gathered in the capital on Thursday.

A crowd of thousands celebrated the arrival of the Madani train, climbing on top, waving national flags and chanting, “the army is Sudan’s army, not Burhan’s army” – a reference to General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the leader of Sudan’s military and its governing Sovereign Council.

Aljazeera 16 September 2021

World Bank head sees situation in Sudan improving, urges patience

Sudan is making progress as it reconnects with the global economy, but patience is needed as the country seeks to tackle shortages and attract investment, the visiting head of the World Bank said on Thursday.

Sudan’s economy has been mired in a crisis that led to the overthrow of former leader Omar al-Bashir in 2019 and has continued since.

Inflation slowed slightly last month to 388% and a sharply devalued currency has shown signs of stabilising, but many Sudanese are struggling with poverty, shortages of medicines, and power cuts.

Last week authorities said they had thwarted an attempted coup, and on Thursday civilian groups are calling for pro-democracy protests in Khartoum.

News24 30 September 2021

South Sudan

South Sudan dismisses UN report on corruption

South Sudan’s government has dismissed a UN report accusing the country’s governing elite of looting tens of millions of dollars from public coffers, saying it is the victim of an “international campaign”.

Last week, the UN’s Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan said a “staggering” amount of money and other wealth had been diverted from public coffers and resources – more than $73m since 2018, with almost $39m stolen during a period of less than two months.

It warned that the plunder risks derailing an already fragile peace process in the world’s newest nation, which has struggled to emerge from five years of civil war following independence in 2011.

Aljazeera 27 September 2021

South Sudanese refugees homeless again after Sudan floods

Heavy rains and flash floods have hit 13 of Sudan’s 18 states, affecting more than 288,000 residents and refugees, according to the United Nations.

In neighbouring South Sudan, the deluge affected and displaced about 426,000 people, exacerbating the swelling humanitarian needs in Sudan, the UN said.

In Sudan, thousands of refugees were relocated to different camps, while others took shelter in villages that were spared, but many are now living on the streets.

“They have become homeless,” said Ibrahim Mohamed, a senior official at Sudan’s refugee commission.

“We are facing a serious challenge of finding new land to relocate them to.”

Aljazeera 23 September 2021

North Africa

Western Sahara

EU court annuls Morocco trade deals over Western Sahara

Morocco did not have the consent of Western Sahara people needed for the trade treaties; a European Union court has ruled.

A European Union court on Wednesday annulled EU-Morocco agriculture and fishing trade deals, saying that they were agreed to without the consent of the people of Western Sahara.

The EU and Morocco issued a joint statement reiterating that they would act to ensure continuity of the bilateral trade.

Morocco’s Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita and the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell said in the communique that they would “take necessary measures to ensure the legal framework guaranteeing the continuation and stability of trade between the EU and Morocco”.

The EU is the North African kingdom’s largest trade partner and leading foreign investor, according to the 27-member bloc.

Aljazeera 29 September 2021

Western Sahara, the Biden Administration and Human Rights

For decades, the Sahrawi people of Western Sahara have mobilized toward the U.N.-backed goal of the right to express their choice of either independence from or integration with the Moroccan state. Despite international support, Sahrawis have been denied this freedom of expression and other human rights by a repressive Moroccan government and military rule, one entrenched since its annexation and claim of sovereignty over Western Sahara in 1975. In December 2020, then-President Trump drastically broke from established U.S. policy, international consensus, and U.N. resolutions to formally recognize Morocco’s control of Western Sahara in a quid pro quo for Morocco to normalize relations with Israel. But in the process, Trump dismissed the human rights of Sahrawis, further marginalizing an oppressed people already struggling to maintain their collective voice, which is unjustifiable.

Thousands upon thousands of Sahrawis have seen their peaceful, lawful expression and protest met with disturbing abuse and extreme crackdowns by Moroccan authorities. Yet despite promising commitments early in his administration to champion human rights as integral to the United States’ international role, President Biden has so far left the Sahrawis behind. Meanwhile, Moroccan authorities have carried out increased crackdowns on Sahrawi human rights and dissent under the green light of sustained U.S. recognition for Morocco’s claim to Western Sahara. The administration’s recent public statements on the matter and continued commitments to a strong security relationship with the Moroccan government suggest a refusal to address these abuses and hold Morocco to account.

Law Fare 21 September 2021