News Briefs 02 June 2017

Democratic Republic of Congo

The voters of the Democratic Republic of Congo should have gone to the polls last November to choose their new head of state.

Instead, presidential and parliamentary elections were not organized, and shortly afterward, on December 19, President Joseph Kabila’s second and, according to the constitution, final term expired.

Deal struck

Under a political deal struck on New Year’s Eve between Kabila’s ruling coalition and the opposition, the delayed polls are supposed to take place in late 2017. In the meantime, the president has remained in office.

On Sunday, the electoral commission, known as CENI, launched voter enrollment in Kinshasa, the Congo’s capital of about 12 million people, and Kabila himself was the first to register. The process of registering the city’s voters is expected to take about three months.

On Monday, Providence Nsongo was at a registration center at a high school in the district of Barumbu.

Nsongo said he had come to do his civic duty by enrolling so that he could take action against Congo’s political and administrative authorities. He said that this is the right of all Congolese people.


U.S. Imposes Sanctions on Top Military Adviser to Congo’s Kabila

The U.S. imposed sanctions on a senior military adviser of Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila, raising pressure on the government for a peaceful transition of power.

The U.S. froze the assets of Francois Olenga, the head of the Military House of the President, for actions that threatened “the peace, security or stability of the DRC,” the Treasury Department said in a statement.

Olenga oversaw security operations on behalf of Kabila to quash political dissent and supported the redeployment of senior military offices believed to have “pro-opposition” leanings, according to Treasury. Safari Beach, a resort on the outskirts of Congo’s capital Kinshasa which is owned or controlled by Olenga, was also placed on the sanctions list, it said.



Not enough funds to fight persisting hunger in Somalia: WFP

The World Food Programme is urging for more funding to fight the deepening hunger and nutrition crisis in Somalia where more than half the 12 million population are need of aid and the country risks a repeat of famine that killed hundreds of thousands of people just six years ago.

It is a desperate situation. The World Food Programme is feeding about 2.3 million people right now per day but funds are short and if we do not receive the funds we need, we are talking about a situation that will be potentially much worse than the famine that took place in 2010, 2011 and 2012 when 260,000 people died and literally half of those died before the famine was declared.

We’re looking at multiples much worse than that with the numbers that we are seeing now so, we need the money and we need it now.


Somalia And Its Backers Seek Security Pact to Beef Up Army

Somalia’s government and its foreign backers said on Thursday they were hammering out a plan to try and strengthen the army to take over the fight against Al-Shabaab militants from over-stretched African Union troops.

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May told a London conference the scheme would aim to unite Somalia’s main army with a range of regional forces based across the divided and chaotic territory.

The African Union troops have clawed back most of Somalia’s main towns and cities from al Shabaab since they helped drive the Al Qaeda-linked insurgents out of the capital Mogadishu in 2010.


Central African Republic

Lack of aid funds fuelling C Africa crisis: UN

A dire lack of aid funds in the strife-torn Central African Republic risks leaving a vacuum that armed groups will fill, dashing hopes of peace, the UN said on Thursday.

Aid workers have already been forced to scale down their activities and food rations have been cut in half, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator in the country, Najat Rochdi, told reporters.

“The window of opportunity to prevent the crisis from further escalation risks being shut very soon,” she warned.


UN: Renewed Violence Puts CAR Peace Process on Life Support

The United Nations warns a new spiral of escalating violence in the Central African Republic is threatening to wipe out progress made since 2013 toward peace and reconciliation.

Renewed fighting between Christian anti-Balaka militia and the ex-Seleka Muslim rebels in mid-May continues to take a heavy toll. The United Nations reports more than 100,000 people have fled their homes, more than 100 have been killed and hundreds of others wounded.

The U.N.’s humanitarian coordinator for C.A.R., Najat Rochdi, says the peace dividend people were beginning to enjoy has all but disappeared. She warns worse lies ahead if the humanitarian and protection needs of the people continue to be forgotten by the International community.

Voice of America


Almost 4,000,000 Sudanese displaced by fighting

Almost 4,000,000 Sudanese have been forced from their homes in 14 years of tribal violence and battles between government and opposition fighters, the Norwegian Refugee Council says.

The aid group listed Sudan as number three in its latest report, The World’s Most Neglected Displacement Crises, saying almost five million Sudanese were now dependant on humanitarian aid, with three million of those living in the war-scarred region of Darfur.

“Hundreds of thousands of people do not receive the lifesaving help they need because of challenges in accessing communities,” the council said before blaming “a 40 percent shortage in funding and a lack of international media attention to the crisis”.


Sudan rejects Egypt official offer on disputed border region

Sudan has rejected an official offer from Egypt applying the terms of an inactivate agreement on the contested border area of the Halayeb Triangle.

After obstructing the 2004 Four Freedoms Agreement that would have permitted free movement, residence, work and ownership in both countries, Egypt recently offered to implement its terms in the disputed mineral-rich border region, a government official told Egyptian website Mada Masr.

Relations between Egypt and Sudan have recently been fraught with tension, with Khartoum renewing its claim to the Halayeb Triangle, a dispute that dates back to British colonial times.

The New Arab

South Sudan

Botched Anti-Measles Campaign Kills 15 Children in South Sudan

At least 15 children died in South Sudan in early May after health workers vaccinating them against measles used the same syringe without sterilizing it, the health minister said on Friday.

About 300 children were vaccinated on May 2-5 in Nacholdokopele village in Eastern Equatoria state, another 32 of whom have recovered after falling ill with symptoms including fever, vomiting and diarrhea, Health Minister Riek Gai Kok said.

“The team that vaccinated the children in this tragic event were neither qualified nor trained for the immunization campaign,” Kok told a news conference.

US News

South Sudan

SA has been ‘hospitable’, South Sudan rebel leader Machar tells UN

outh Sudan rebel leader Riek Machar, who has been in South Africa since last year, has told the United Nations that the country’s government has been “hospitable”, but he wishes to be released “from confinement and detention”.

“My host here South Africa has been hospitable,” Machar said in a statement released on Wednesday after a teleconference with the UN security council.

According to reports the leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in-Opposition (SPLM-IO), arrived in South Africa late last year without the government’s knowledge – after fleeing the capital Juba, claiming that President Salva Kiir wanted to assassinate him.


Western Sahara

European Commission ‘ignoring’ of UN-recognised Polisario Front on EU-Morocco Agreement raised in Dáil

A EUROPEAN COMMISSION move to renegotiate its Association Agreement with Morocco on trade, political co-operation and development issues without involving the people of Western Sahara and their UN-recognised political representatives, the Polisario Front, has been raised in the Dáil (Irish Parliament) by Sinn Féin TD Seán Crowe with the Irish Foreign Affairs Minister.

Morocco has occupied much of resource-rich Western Sahara since 1975. Most of the population has been expelled by force, many to camps in the Algerian desert where 165,000 refugees still live. United Nations resolutions have called for the right to self-determination of the Saharawi people. The United Nations considers the Polisario Front to be the legitimate representative of the Sahrawi people


International Courts Order Pause In Disputed Exports Of Phosphates From Western Sahara

Two cargo ships are currently being detailed in ports in Panama and South Africa under court orders, in the latest sign of difficulty for those involved in exports from Western Sahara, a territory in west Africa occupied by Morocco since 1975.

The Ultra Innovation bulk carrier was detained under court order on May 17 while travelling through the Panama Canal. The vessel is carrying phosphate rock from Western Sahara. The cargo is due to be delivered to Canadian firm Agrium, which plans to use it to make fertilizer at its plant in Alberta, Canada. The Ultra Innovation, which is owned by Danish shipping company Ultrabulk, is currently anchored on the Pacific coast of Panama, close to Panama City.

A spokesman for Agrium said it was aware of the situation and that “steps are being taken to post a bond that will allow the vessel to continue on its voyage without further delay. At this time we don’t anticipate any production interruptions at our phosphate facility in Alberta.”



Pupils Beaten Unlawfully at School

Pupils at a primary school in Swaziland were thrashed because they did not bring enough empty milk cartons to class.

It happened at Lubombo Central Primary School in Siteki, according to a report in the Times of Swaziland on Tuesday (20 May 2017).


After years of physical abuse of children, in 2015 corporal punishment in schools was abolished, but teachers across the kingdom still use it.

According to the Times, Lubombo Central Primary is participating in a waste collection and recycling competition initiated by dairy products manufacturing company, Parmalat Swaziland. Schools are required to collect empty containers of Umcenge Milk, which are then collected by Parmalat. The school which collects the most containers will be awarded with E20,000 (US$1,520).

The Times reported that all pupils at the school, ‘have been instructed to collect at least 10 empty containers of Umcenge Milk per day’.


‘No Terror Threat in Swaziland’

There are no known terrorist groups operating in Swaziland, but even so the government has banned several local organisations as terrorist groups, a new report from the United States has revealed.

Police see no difference between protestors and bystanders and will fire teargas and rubber bullets at close range to disperse protestors.

These insights were contained in a report from the United States Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security, just published. It is aimed at American diplomats in Swaziland.

The report assessed the Swaziland capital Mbabane as a ‘low-threat location for political violence’. It stated, ‘In 2016, there were no acts of terrorism in Swaziland and no known terrorist organizations. Through the Swazi Suppression of Terrorism Act of 2008, the government deemed several local political organizations as terrorist groups.’



Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe to woo the youth vote

Zimbabwe’s 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe has begun a series of rallies across the country in a bid to win the support of young people ahead of elections next year.

A huge crowd has gathered for the rally in a stadium at Marondera, a small town east of the capital, Harare, the state-run Herald newspaper reports.

It adds that the president is planning nine others similar rallies this year.

Mr Mugabe has been in power since 1980 and is due to run again in 2018.


Barclays Sells Zimbabwe Bank to Malawi’s First Merchant Bank

Barclays announced the sale of its Zimbabwe bank to Malawi-listed First Merchant Bank on Friday as the British lender continues its exit from Africa.

In March it announced that it was in talks on the sale of its stake in Barclays Bank of Zimbabwe as part of a broader exit from Africa to refocus on the United States and Britain.


Barclays did not announce a price but said the deal would remove 292 million pounds in risk-weighted assets from its balance sheet.

All 700 Barclays Bank of Zimbabwe employees will transfer to the new owner, Barclays said. The deal is expected to complete in the third quarter of this year.



Africa in General

Lesotho election ‘likely to deliver uneasy coalition’

The southern African mountain kingdom of Lesotho holds a snap election on Saturday, with experts predicting another fractious coalition government, unlikely to tackle its dire levels of HIV-Aids and unemployment.

The vote is the third general election since 2012 in the country known as Africa’s Switzerland where years of political in-fighting have stymied attempts to fight poverty.

Lesotho, with a population of about two million people, is surrounded by South Africa, which relies on it for essential water supplies to Johannesburg and other cities.


44 migrants, including babies, die in Niger desert

At least 44 migrants, including women and babies, were found dead after their vehicle broke down in the desert of northern Niger while on the way to Libya, local officials said on Thursday.

“The number of migrants who died in the desert is 44 for now,” said Rhissa Feltou, the mayor of Agadez, a remote town on the edge of the Sahara that has become the smuggling capital of Africa.

Last year, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) recorded 335 000 migrants heading northwards out of Niger.


United Nations Security Council must include Africa – Zuma

President Jacob Zuma during his address on Africa Day at the presidential guest house called for the reform of the United Nations Security Council to include Africa.

“As Africa changes, so too must the instruments of global governance. That is why we continue to call for the reform of the UN Security Council to include Africa,” said Zuma.

“The membership of the UN Security Council must reflect the fact that Africa is now made up of independent countries and not colonies.”

“The whole system of international governance should thus be much more democratic and rules-based,” he said.