News Briefs 02 November 2018

Democratic Republic of Congo

DR Congo ‘Not Ready’ For December Polls: Opposition

The Democratic Republic of Congo is “not ready” to hold long-delayed elections in December, the main opposition party said Tuesday, the day after the army handed over 150 trucks and a dozen aircraft for use by the electoral commission.

“One hundred fifty trucks can’t cover our vast national territory which doesn’t even have the road infrastructure,” said Augustin Kabuya, spokesman of the main opposition Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS).

The conflict-ridden DR Congo sprawls over 2.3 million square kilometres (890,000 square miles), making it the largest country in sub-Saharan Africa, some two-thirds the size of Western Europe.

The former Belgian colony boasts just 27,877 kilometres of roads, President Joseph Kabila said in July. By comparison, France alone has more than a million kilometres.


UNSC condemns attacks on Ebola-stricken areas in DRC

The UN Security Council adopted a resolution Tuesday condemning attacks by armed groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Resolution 2439 documents particular concern for the plight of Ebola-stricken areas in the African nation. Citing concerns for government and independent armed groups in the region, the resolution calls for a cessation of violence in the region so humanitarian groups may have better access to the region. As a result, such groups would be safer an free to deliver aid to the region.

The resolution identifies the country’s government as the most important key player in this crisis. It states that the government is in the best position to bring an end to the fighting and address the Ebola issue.

The resolution also stresses the importance for the international community to remain vigilant in support of the victims. It praises the leadership of the World Health Organization and its work in the region.



‘Stand-off’ between Somalia’s federal, state authorities could ‘paralyze’ progress – UN envoy

Nicholas Haysom, UN Special Representative for Somalia and head of the Assistance Mission UNSOM, called for better collaboration: “What we’re facing is a quite serious political issue – the stand-off between the Federal Member States and the Federal Government may well paralyze our efforts to help Somalia get back on its feet.”


“We’re exploring ways of bringing them together in the hope that Somalis can face down their problems together rather than going separately,” said Mr. Haysom at a joint press conference, alongside Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden, President of South West State, and Francisco Madeira, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission.

Mr. Haysom also flagged the need for “credible and acceptable” presidential elections next month and renewed his call for collaboration to solve the ongoing tensions.

“We’re asking all of the relevant role-players to get together to find a solution and to make the necessary compromises so that they can work collaboratively rather than against each other,” he said.

UN News

Somalia and World Bank ink $80m deal

The Somali government has signed $80m grant deal with the World Bank (WB).

Funds from the deal penned in Mogadishu on Wednesday, will go towards the Horn of Africa state’s development projects.

Finance minister Abdurahman Duale Beyle signed the agreement on behalf of the Somali government, while Bella Bird, the Africa Regional Director, signed for the World Bank.

Dr Beyle stated that the World Bank welcomed the Somali government’s efforts in restructuring the economy. “That is why the World Bank has initiated a grant amounting to $140 million,” he said. The minister added that the “$80m being signed today has been approved by the bank’s board”.

Daily Nation

Central African Republic

France warns on Russian arms and advisers in Central African Republic

France has warned that the growing presence of Russian military advisors and weapons in the Central African Republic could exacerbate tensions in the war-torn nation.

The statement comes after a rebel leader demanded Russia explain the presence of its “mercenaries” in the country.

A French colony until 1960 and one of the poorest countries in the world, the CAR has suffered from fighting since 2013, when mostly Muslim rebels overthrew the government but were pushed back by Christian militias.

The United Nations Security Council allowed Russia in 2017 to begin delivering arms to the country’s new Christian president, and Moscow sent 175 instructors to train CAR troops earlier this year. The president’s personal guard is now reportedly made up largely of Russians.

The Telegraph

Lawmaker Fires Shots During Central African Republic Parliament Vote

Lawmakers in the Central African Republic chose a new speaker of parliament in a chaotic vote prompted by the controversial removal of Karim Meckassoua, who was voted out of office in the first such measure in the history of the war-torn nation.

The vote was disrupted by lawmaker Alfred Yekatom, also known as Rambo, a key figure in the anti-balaka militia. Yekatom fired two shots in the air before being led away by security forces. Two other lawmakers were also arrested before Laurent N’Gon Baba was elected to head the National Assembly.

Meckassoua quit on Friday after 98 out of 140 lawmakers voted in favor of his dismissal following a petition last week to request his removal on grounds that parliament funds were disappearing and some staff was being overpaid. While it’s not clear why Yekatom fired his gun in protest, his party said earlier that his name had been added to the petition without his consent.



Sudan should prosecute Darfur crimes, pursue ICC arrest warrants: UN

A U.N. watchdog told Sudan on Thursday to prosecute security forces for attacks in Darfur from 2014-2016 and cooperate with the International Criminal Court, which has issued an arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir for alleged war crimes.

Executions by crucifixion and stoning should be stricken from its statute books, and authorities should halt prosecutions and intimidation of journalists, critics and activists, it said.

Thousands of people have been killed in Sudan’s civil wars, including the western Darfur region where rebels have been fighting against Bashir’s government since 2003. In July, the government extended until year-end a three-year-old unilateral ceasefire with rebels in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee, whose independent experts uphold a landmark treaty on civil and political rights, reviewed Sudan’s record and issued its findings on Thursday.


Amnesty urges Sudan to stop crackdown on journalists

Amnesty International on Friday urged the Sudanese government to halt what it describes as “relentless harassment, intimidation and censorship of journalists” in the country.

In a report documenting the arrests of at least 15 journalists by state security forces between January and October, the rights group says the media in Sudan are frequently targeted by the National Intelligence and Security Agency for their reporting, especially for publishing articles criticizing government policies.

Sudan has been ranked 174 out of 180 countries in 2017 world press freedom index by Reporters Without Borders, a media watchdog.

Amnesty said NISS agents often show up at newspaper printing presses to review each edition, ordering editors to drop certain stories before publication or altogether confiscating entire print runs.

The Wichita Eagle

South Sudan

South Sudan Rebel Leader Machar: We Are for Peace

South Sudan rebel leader Riek Machar returned to the capital Juba for the first time in more than two years Wednesday, saying he arrived with a message of peace.

Machar, who under the terms of the September deal is to be reinstated as vice president, had not set foot in the city since he fled in July 2016 under a hail of gunfire when an earlier peace pact collapsed.

“Our message is one: We are for peace…. This peace is in our hearts and we are going to implement this agreement,” Machar said at a ceremony to welcome the latest peace accord for the war-ravaged country.

The new deal aims to end a civil war that erupted in the world’s youngest country in December 2013 and uprooted about four million people – roughly a third of the population.


As South Sudan celebrates, UN envoy cites trust as future ‘key ingredient’

“To see parties that have previously been divided by violence coming together here in Juba, in a public sign of unity, sends a strong signal to the citizens of this country that you are genuinely committed to end the suffering and building durable peace,” remarked David Shearer, UN Special Representative and Head of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).

In a gesture of reconciliation, President Salva Kiir announced the imminent release of former deputy and opposition leader Riek Machar’s spokesperson, who has been detained since late 2016 on charges of treason.

Alongside President Kiir and Mr. Machar, other Heads of State, high-level representatives and leaders from other opposition groups attended the event marking the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict, which was billed as a celebration of “the Dawn of Peace, Appreciating Friends, Cherishing Reconciliation and Unity”.

UN News

Western Sahara

UN welcomes moves to restart negotiations on Western Sahara

The U.N. Security Council approved a resolution Wednesday welcoming stepped up efforts seeking to restart negotiations to end more than 40 years of conflict between Morocco and the pro-independence Polisario Front over the mineral-rich Western Sahara.

The vote on the U.S.-sponsored resolution was 12-0 in favor, with Russia, Ethiopia and Bolivia abstaining. The resolution also extends the mandate of the U.N. mission in the Western Sahara until April 30, 2019.

Morocco annexed the former Spanish colony in 1975 and fought the Polisario Front until the U.N. brokered a cease-fire in 1991 and established a peacekeeping mission to monitor it. Morocco has proposed wide-ranging autonomy for Western Sahara, while the Polisario Front insists the local population, which it estimates at 350,000 to 500,000, has the right to a referendum on the territory’s future that was called for in the cease-fire but has never taken place.

The Washington Post

UN renews Western Sahara mission ahead of talks

The UN Security Council on Wednesday threw its weight behind planned talks on Western Sahara as it voted to extend for six months its decades-old mission in the disputed north African territory.

The council adopted a US-drafted resolution that renewed the mission, known as MINURSO, until April 30, setting a deadline for progress in the push to relaunch political talks.

The resolution was adopted by a vote of 12 in favor in the 15-member council. Russia, Ethiopia and Bolivia abstained.

Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania and the Polisario Front have accepted a UN invitation to hold talks in Geneva December 5-6 that could pave the way to formal negotiations on ending the conflict.



Despite record inequality, UK and EU won’t challenge Swaziland’s monarch

The UK and EU are ignoring Swaziland’s threats to human rights and civic space, refusing to hold the monarchy to account.

Swaziland held national elections on 21 September, but they were nothing more than a charade. As a recent study by journalist and former associate professor at the University of Swaziland, Richard Rooney, asserted before the election: “We can already name the winner—it will be the absolute monarch King Mswati III”.

In Swaziland, political parties are banned from taking part in elections. The People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), widely recognised as the country’s largest opposition party, is proscribed under anti-terrorism legislation. Mswati III has huge influence over elections to the House of Assembly through his network of local chiefs, and the king directly appoints two-thirds of the Senate. Mswati III also appoints the prime minister and cabinet, as well as senior judges and civil servants. The king can veto legislation and criticising the monarch is against the law.

Open Global Rights

Swaziland King Appoints New Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini in Violation of Constitution

King Mswati III, the absolute monarch of Swaziland/ Eswatini, chose his new Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini in violation of the kingdom’s Constitution.


Section 67 of the Constitution says the King must appoint the PM ‘from among members of the House [of Assembly]’ but Dlamini is not a member. He was not elected by the people. The King also appoints ten members of the House of Assembly but did not give Dlamini a place.

The appointment is a clear breach of the Constitution and it highlights how the document that came into effect in 2006 is generally meaningless. King Mswati rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch and this is allowed for in S65(4) of the Constitution which states, ‘Where the King is required by the Constitution to exercise any function after consultation with any person or authority, the King may or may not exercise that function following the consultation.’



ED cornered over deteriorating economy

President Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday met captains of industry to tackle challenges in the economy, but the meeting failed to come up with solutions, according to people with knowledge of the meeting.

Mnangagwa met leaders from the Bankers’ Association of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce, Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries, Grain Millers’ Association of Zimbabwe, Consumer Council of Zimbabwe, Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers and Chamber of Mines, among others.

Sources at the meeting said business indicated to the President that price distortions in the market were a creation of currency misalignment.

A business leader who attended the meeting said they stressed that the solution lay in liberalising the exchange rate.


Zimbabwe targets $700m from controversial payment tax

Zimbabwe expects to raise $700m a year from a new tax on money transfers that triggered panic buying of goods from fuel to sugar and sent its quasi-currency plunging.

The southern African nation, reeling from shortages of foreign exchange, is targeting total revenue of $5.7bn in the current fiscal year and $6.4bn in 2019, Finance Ministry Permanent Secretary George Guvamatanga said in a presentation in Harare, the capital, on Monday. The government is scheduled to present its 2019 budget next month.

Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube introduced a 2% tax on money transfers this month to broaden the country’s tax base, part of a series measures he’s implementing to stabilise the economy. The levy of 2 cents per dollar transacted replaced a previous tax of 5 cents per transaction.




Africa in General

Tanzania’s LGBT+ people fear for their lives as crackdown begins

Gay and transgender people in Tanzania have gone into hiding fearing for their lives after a senior government official called on the public to report suspected homosexuals so that they could be arrested from early next week.

Paul Makonda, regional commissioner for Tanzania’s main city of Dar es Salaam, announced the crackdown on Monday. He said a team would be set up to identify and arrest the “many homosexuals”, who could face up to 30 years in jail.

Makonda’s announcement has sparked panic and fear among thousands of LGBT+ people in the east African nation. Some said they were too scared to go outside during the day, while others had left their homes fearing imminent arrest.


Merkel Pledges Billion-Euro Fund for Investments in Africa

Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday pledged a billion euros to incite businesses to invest in Africa, as she urged the private sector to take a closer look at the continent’s “huge” economic opportunities.

The creation of the fund, announced during an investment forum in Berlin, is aimed at getting small and medium-sized companies to grow their presence in Africa.

Germany has been seeking to help boost economic development in Africa, as it hopes that better work prospects and living standards on the continent would help curb illegal migration to Europe.

For Merkel, economic development requires not just government support but also private investment.


Eswatini king’s PM appointment could threaten crucial aid: US ambassador

Eswatini King Mswati III has violated his country’s constitution with the appointment of new Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini, US ambassador Lisa Peterson said.

Peterson warned that the king’s failure to uphold his country’s constitution could affect the amount of development aid from the US to Swaziland in future.

“Section 67 of the constitution says the King must appoint the premier from among members of the House of Assembly but Dlamini is not a member. He was not elected by the people,” Eswatini political commentator, Richard Rooney said.

“The king also appoints ten members of the House of Assembly but did not give Dlamini a place,” the Swazimedia.blogspot’s Rooney said.


Amnesty slams Tanzania’s ‘dangerous’ anti-gay witchhunt

Amnesty International said on Thursday that plans by Tanzania’s economic capital to hunt down and arrest suspected homosexuals were leading it down a “dangerous path”.

Dar es Salaam governor Paul Makonda on Monday urged citizens to begin reporting homosexuals for round-ups to begin next week in the country, where anti-gay rhetoric has soared in recent years.

“It is extremely regrettable that Tanzania has chosen to take such a dangerous path in its handling of an already marginalised group of people,” said Joan Nanyuki, Amnesty’s regional director.

“The idea of this taskforce must be immediately abandoned as it only serves to incite hatred among members of the public.”