News Briefs 03 December 2021.

Southern Afric:a

Zimbabwe:

South Africa Banks Threatening to Close Bank Accounts of 178,000 Zimbabweans Exemption Permit Holders Expiring Soon

Some South African banks are threatening to freeze accounts of Special Zimbabweans Exemption Permit holders if they don’t provide new documents in January 2022.

One of the permit holders, who requested anonymity, said he received a notice from Capitec Bank informing him that his work permit is expected to expire and therefore he has to renew it in order to have an active bank account.

The letter reads in part, “… Your work permit expires in January. Visit your nearest branch with your new permit to keep your account active …”

In a message posted on YouTube, Ngqabutho Mabhena, chairperson of the Zimbabwe Community in South Africa, said his organization is engaging banks to ensure that ZEP holders’ accounts are not closed since all the permits expire at the end of this month.

“What we have already said is that we need to get clarity on whether the banks will not close down people’s accounts as a result of this 12-month grace period. Any government department will not refuse people entry or refuse to provide services to ZEP holders …”

Voice of America 02 December 2021

‘Come Back Home’: Govt Urges Zimbabweans Based In South Africa

The government has urged Zimbabweans living in neighbouring South Africa to adhere to that country’s administration’s decisions of not extending their Zimbabwe Exemption Permits (ZEP) beyond 2022.

In a statement Wednesday, the Zimbabwean ambassador to South Africa, said it will assist in implementing the process. Last week South Africa announced a cabinet decision to suspend the special permits that had kept millions of Zimbabweans across the Limpopo legally.

The permits, which were supposed to expire on 31 December this year, were extended by an extra year and Zimbabweans are expected to leave South Africa or face deportation. “The Government of the Republic of Zimbabwe takes note of this decision by the Government of the Republic of South Africa, a close neighbour with which Zimbabwe enjoys excellent relations,” reads the statement.

“The Government of the Republic of Zimbabwe urges and encourages all its nationals, beneficiaries of the special dispensation, to comply with this decision and to cooperate in its implementation.

New Zimbabwe 02 December 2021

Eswatini

Sexual abuse is still rife in Eswatini

Eswatini has made strides in tackling sexual and gender-based violence, but much still needs to be done to ensure the law is applied and that perpetrators —particularly those in powerful positions — are held accountable, a local activist says.

Nonhlanhla Dlamini, the director of the Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (Swagaa), says much of the activism against sexual and gender-based violence in the kingdom is largely carried out by nongovernmental organisations — although two decades of advocacy yielded the progressive Sexual Offence and Domestic Violence (SODV) Act (SODV) in 2018.

Dlamini joined the action group in 1998 after someone close to her was raped.

Eswatini, like many other Southern African countries, has staggering rates of sexual and gender-based violence. One in three girls will have experienced some form of sexual abuse by the age of 18, according to the action group. A further 48% of women report having experienced some form of sexual violence during their lives.

Mail& Guardian 27 November 2021

‘Gross human rights abuses’ in Eswatini

Even after a preliminary investigation into the extent of the violence meted out to the people of Eswatini by the troops of King Mswati III, the total death toll has still not been confirmed.

At the end of June, protests against Africa’s last absolute monarch turned violent. Protesters torched buildings connected to the king, and police reportedly assaulted and arrested political opponents. The protest manifested after three pro-democracy MPs advocated in parliament that a democratic government should rule the country.

Two weeks ago, the Human Rights Commission released a preliminary report suggesting 46 people were killed, and 245 were injured during the June 2021 political unrest.

But the report has been vigorously criticised by political parties and civil society because it downplayed the number of civilians killed.

Wandile Dludlu, the People’s United Democratic Movement secretary general, told the Swaziland News that they had verified figures suggesting that Mswati’s forces killed more than 70 people during the political unrest.

Mail& Guardian 13 November 2021

Democratic Republic of Congo

Congo says it has to fight joint enemy with Uganda as soldiers cross border

Congolese authorities on Wednesday sought to allay concerns about the arrival of Ugandan troops in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo for an ongoing joint operation against a militia linked to Islamic State.

Witnesses saw hundreds of Ugandan soldiers entering Congo as both countries deployed special forces to secure bases of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) militia that they had hit with air and artillery strikes the previous day. read more

Government spokesperson Patrick Muyaya said the countries were cooperating against a common enemy. The ADF are accused of killing hundreds of civilians in eastern Congo since 2019 and carrying out a string of recent bombings in Uganda.

“We know it is an operation that some of our fellow citizens have doubts about for good reasons,” he told a news conference in the Kinshasa. “Both we and Uganda have an obligation to act together.”

Reuters 01 December 2021

Congo Investigation a Chance to Fight Corruption

Authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo confirmed last week that they had opened an inquiry following allegations of high-level corruption reported by a consortium of media and international groups. Investigators from 18 countries, working with 19 media outlets and 5 nongovernmental organizations, spent months going through 3.5 million leaked documents to produce “Congo Hold-Up,” a stunning account of corruption under former president Joseph Kabila.

The documents, obtained by Mediapart and the Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa, are from BGFIBank Group (Banque Gabonaise et Française Internationale), a private bank allegedly used to channel millions of dollars’ worth of public funds to Kabila’s family and associates.

Since November 19, “Congo Hold-Up” findings have been published almost daily, exposing a kleptocratic system that enabled the siphoning of state funds from Congo’s Central Bank, state-owned mining company Gecamines, the national electoral commission, and tax revenues.

Human Rights Watch 01 December 2021

Central Africa and the Horn

Election Rocked With Claims of Rigging

When former Speaker of the Somali Lower House Mohamed Osman Jawari protested “plans to rig me out” last week, he sounded like a sore loser.

But after a local poll management committee defied an order from the Federal Electoral Implementation Team (FEIT) to delay the vote in the southwest state, many read irregularities.

In the current arrangement, election for the Lower House – which has 275 members – is expected to end by December 26.

Delegates are selected by local electoral agencies, the federal electoral organisation and clan elders. These delegates from every state then vote for their regions, based on the number of candidates who must be approved by local state administrators.

Jawari’s problems began when he realised, he could not defend his seat in Baidoa, the capital of Southwest state.

All Africa 03 December 2021

European Parliament Raps Somalia Over Press Freedom, Rights Violations

The European Parliament on Thursday raised the alarm over Somalia’s legal environment for the media, describing it as restrictive and conducive for rogue elements to harass journalists.

In a joint resolution focused on Somalia’s human rights, press freedom and humanitarian situation, the Parliament endorsed a decision that will see the bloc formally ask Somalia to repeal its media law and stop detaining journalists without trial.

It cited the role of the media in ensuring a free and fair election, but said Somalia “severely restricted” media operators, with journalists and human rights activists threatened, detained or denied due process in courts.

The key concern for the EU body is the controversial media law passed last year ostensibly to amend a worse version of 2016. The new one introduced thing like public service broadcasting.

All Africa 26 November 2021

Central African Republic

Rebel attacks kill dozens in Central African Republic

Rebel attacks in the northwest of the Central African Republic at the weekend claimed at least 30 civilian lives and those of two soldiers, local officials said Tuesday.

Simultaneous attacks on Sunday hit the villages of Kaita and Bayengou, near the border with Cameroon some 500 kilometres (300 miles) north of the capital Bangui, said regional administrator Esaie Gbanin, whose death toll was confirmed by a humanitarian source.

Many residents have fled to Cameroon, Gbanin added.

The Central African Republic, the second least developed country in the world according to UN rankings, was plunged into a bloody civil war after a coup in 2013.

The conflict has calmed over the past three years, although large swathes of territory remain outside central government control.

France24 30 November 2021

Protection of Children Deteriorated in Recent Months, Urgent to Act to Prevent Further Grave Violations

The protection and well-being of children in the Central African Republic (CAR) has gravely deteriorated in recent months and particularly since the end of 2020 with a spike for most of the six grave violations, highlights the latest report on the country of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict. The vulnerability of Central African children to grave violations was largely exacerbated by a surge in hostilities across the country, including attacks by armed groups and counter-offensive military operations by government and pro-governmental forces during the electoral processes in 2020 which are continuing to this day.

The report highlights those 1,280 children suffered one or more grave violations between 1 July 2019 and 30 June 2021, with girls accounting for more than 40% of all victims. Most grave violations were committed by armed groups; nevertheless 5% were attributed to the Forces armées centrafricaines (FACA) and bilaterally deployed and other security personnel.

“The security situation in the Central African Republic has rapidly worsened in recent months and children are paying a high price for these renewed hostilities,” said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba. “I call on the signatories of the Political Agreement to uphold their commitments including those pertaining to children and urgently put in place concrete measures to protect children from harm and prevent further violations.”

Relief Web 15 November 2021

Sudan

The messy aftermath of Sudan’s coup

For weeks after the military took over Sudan on October 25, an internet shutdown made it hard to speak with people inside the country. But even as a communications blackout meant news was only trickling out of Sudan, the situation on the ground was rapidly changing. After weeks of pressure from the street protests, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was removed from house arrest and reinstated on November 21. The internet is back, but protests have continued. Is the political crisis in Sudan over?

Aljazeera 03 December 2021

UN chief calls on Sudanese to back reinstated PM Hamdok for democracy

Antonio Guterres told reporters the AU continues to encourage both the prime minister and the military “to find a compromise on the political side with civil society and political parties so they can conclude this transition”.

The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged the Sudanese people to support reinstated Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok so the country can have “a peaceful transition towards a true democracy.”

Guterres on Wednesday told a news conference he understands “the indignation” and outrage of Sudanese, who have seen a military coup that called into question agreements for a transition to democracy.

“But I would like to appeal for common sense. We have a situation which is, yes, not perfect, but which could allow for a transition towards democracy,” he said.

TRT World 02 December 2021

South Sudan

What stands in the way of a new South Sudan post-conflict constitution

South Sudan became an independent country following a long-armed struggle to break away from Sudan. At a referendum in 2011, millions voted in favour of secession, creating Africa’s 55th independent state. Since then, the nation of 11 million has been governed under the Transitional Constitution.

The process of drafting what is referred to as a ‘permanent’ constitution started in 2012. But it was interrupted by the conflict of 2013 and then again in 2016. The conflict was eventually defused by an agreement between the warring parties in 2018.

South Sudan is, therefore, yet to draft a constitution that the country’s population can call its own. This is unlikely to take place so long as obstacles to effective people’s participation remain. These include the slow implementation of the 2018 agreement which is the mainstay of peaceful coexistence. There is also large number of displaced people who have fled the country, and the lack of civic freedoms to ensure participation without threat or intimidation.

The Conversation 29 November 2021

Empowering People with Disabilities in South Sudan

As hunger levels rise in South Sudan, WFP ensures that everyone has the right to assistance

“I will never forget that day when my life changed,” says David of the afternoon he was ambushed in South Sudan in 2017. “I had been travelling from Koboko to Yei and I drove straight into an ambush. My vehicle was showered with bullets and the two passengers riding with me lost their lives.”

He adds: “When the first bullet was fired, I trembled but remained steady.

“I kicked the back door and ran into the bush.” For one week, David was lost in the woods until he found his way home on foot. He suffered injuries to his right leg which was already weakened by the polio he had suffered as a child. The injury worsened, leaving him unable to walk and in need of a wheelchair for mobility.

David had hoped to start his own accountancy firm. But he, his wife and their four children, had to abandon all their plans and join thousands displaced by conflict in a refugee camp in neighbouring Uganda.

All Africa 03 December 2021

North Africa and the Sahara

Western Sahara

Polisario Front vowed to continue its fight for Western Sahara’s independence

The Polisario Front called today for international solidarity with Western Sahara’s independence struggle as the movement vowed to continue its fight for self-determination.

Bouchraya Bachir, Polisario representative for the European Union, was speaking at a youth gathering in Spain when he decried Morocco’s failure to hold a promised independence referendum.

This, he pointed out, was a major part of a United Nations-brokered ceasefire agreement signed by the Polisario Front and Rabat in 1991.

But Morocco has reneged on the deal. In November last year, Rabat broke the three-decade-long ceasefire with incursions into the demilitarised Guerguerat region.

Mr Bachir insisted that the Polisario Front “is determined to continue the legitimate armed struggle against the Moroccan occupation until the realisation of the right of the Saharawi people to freedom and independence.”

Morning Star 30 November 2021

Why is the Western Sahara conflict heating up?

The long-frozen Western Sahara conflict pitting Morocco against the Polisario Front independence movement has flared in recent months, worsening already tense relations between the kingdom and its Polisario-backing neighbour, Algeria.

The killing of three Algerians on a highway through the territory, in what Algiers says was a Moroccan strike, has raised fears of escalation.

So, what is at stake, and what are the risks?

How do things stand?

A former Spanish colony with extensive phosphate reserves and rich Atlantic fishing grounds, the Western Sahara is seen by Morocco as its own sovereign territory.

To stake Morocco’s claim, the current king’s father, Hassan II, sent 350,000 civilian volunteers on the iconic Green March into the territory in 1975 — 46 years ago this Saturday.

Shortly afterwards, Spain withdrew, leaving Morocco and fellow claimant Mauritania to fight it out with the Polisario Front, which proclaimed a Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, with support from Algeria, a state with strong anti-colonial roots.

France24 06 November 2021