News Briefs 06 March 2020


Zimbabwe calls US extending sanctions ‘baffling’

Zimbabwe on Thursday said it was dismayed by the White House’s “baffling” decision to extend sanctions against members of the southern African country’s government over rights abuses.

The United States first imposed sanctions, including financial and travel restrictions, in 2003 against then-President Robert Mugabe, members of his inner circle and state companies over rights abuses and rigged elections.

Zimbabwe’s secretary for information, Nick Mangwana, said the “government has noted with dismay the White House message” extending the sanctions for another year.


Reform: It was easier to score than miss opportunity

There was a time when President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government arrogantly dismissed the misgivings of human rights defenders as the useless ranting of Zimbabwe’s enemies, and got away with it.

Those days have long gone. In recent months, it has become increasingly clear that the world is unrelenting in its demand for the upholding of civil liberties, the rule of law and constitutionalism.

Last week, former United Nations high commissioner for human rights Navi Pillay dropped a bombshell in the middle of Harare when she bluntly said human rights violations are worsening under the current government. She was stating the obvious, but in the milieu of prominent global human rights campaigners, there are fewer names bigger than Pillay’s. Her remarks carry weight. That is why the government’s excitable spin doctors did not attempt to counter her.

The Independent


Country to Get Lower Share of SACU Revenue?

The country should brace itself for a lower share from the SACU revenue pool as a result of reduced economic activity in South Africa.

SACU is the Southern African Customs Union and Eswatini is a member alongside Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho and South Africa.

Statistics South Africa, which is the neighbouring country’s data agency, released figures on Tuesday morning showing South Africa’s economy shrank by 1.4 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2019 after a 0.8 per cent reduction in the third quarter. By Stats SA definitions, a recession is said to have taken place when the economy experiences negative growth over two successive quarters.

For the full year 2019, the South African economy grew only by 0.2 per cent in real terms, compared to 0.8 percent growth for 2018.

Eswatini is expected to release its own fourth quarter 2019 GDP figures before the end of the month, following real annual growth of 1.4 percent in the past year.

Times of Swaziland

Man ‘Thrown into Fire’ in Latest Case of Alleged Police Torture in Swaziland

A newspaper in Swaziland (eSwatini) has reported the latest in a series of allegations of what it called ‘torture’ by local police. A man said police threw him into a fire.

The Times of eSwatini, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom ruled by absolute monarch King Mswati III, reported a 20-year-old man from Moyeni had received hospital treatment for ‘bruises on his back, minor wounds on his waist and swollen arms’.

It reported police took Bongani Kunene to Siteki police station after he had allegedly assaulted his cousin. Police also questioned him about other alleged offences.

The Times reported Kunene saying, ‘One of them [police officers] placed a plastic bag round my head and another one hit me with his fists. I cried and shouted for help.’


Democratic Republic of Congo

Jubilation as Congo discharges last Ebola patient

The last Ebola patient being treated in the Democratic Republic of Congo went home from a treatment center on Tuesday, according to the World Health Organization, a significant step in the countdown to declaring an end to the world’s second-deadliest outbreak of the disease.

The woman was released from the center in Beni town, one of the hotspots of the recent outbreak, which began August 2018, the agency said in a statement.

On Tuesday, WHO Africa region tweeted a video of health care workers singing and dancing with the patient as many gathered at the center to celebrate her release from the hospital.

It added that 46 people who had come in contact with the patient are still being monitored for Ebola symptoms.


DR Congo: With Ebola on the wane, UN agencies prepare to combat coronavirus

After more than a year of battling an Ebola virus outbreak that killed more than 2,200 people, UN officials are “cautiously optimistic” that the epidemic in the northeast Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) will soon be history as the country gears up to face the emerging threat of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

In an emotional ceremony on Tuesday, the last Ebola patient in the DRC – a woman called Masiko – was discharged from the treatment centre in Beni, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported.

“There are currently zero cases of #Ebola in #DRC after over a year of fighting this outbreak”, WHO Regional Director Dr. Matshidiso Moeti said in Tweet sharing a video of Masiko leaving the facility to the cheers of a waiting crowd.

UN News

Central African Republic

Rights Committee: Entrenched impunity and “infernal cycle of violence” at the heart of the dialogue with the Central African Republic

The Human Rights Committee today concluded its consideration of the third periodic report of the Central African Republic on the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, during which accountability for human rights violations and acts of violence against civilians took central stage.

Committee Experts recognized the significant security and other challenges facing the country and welcomed the signing of the Political Accord for Peace and Reconciliation on 6 February 2019 between the Government and 14 armed groups.

However, although the peace agreement aimed to end the hostilities, acts of violence against civilians and violations of international humanitarian and human rights law continued. The “entrenched impunity” led to an “infernal cycle of violence”, they said and there was “disguised amnesty” against the perpetrators of violence – following the signing of the peace accord several rebel commanders had been appointed to high government posts.

Relief Web

Improving access to basic services in the Central African Republic

In Bamingui, in the northern part of the Central African Republic, the annual rainy season from May to November means access is often stripped away for weeks, if not months. Access to humanitarian supplies. Access to health services. Access to economic opportunities.

“Whenever it rained, the old bridge flooded,” explains Cécile Germine Mavounda, a local farmer and merchant. “It disappeared beneath the waters so was impossible to use.”

The Central African Republic is home to the third-largest humanitarian crisis in the world – 2.6 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. In many areas of the country, basic social services, such as education and health, are provided by humanitarian organizations.

But only about 2.5 per cent of the road network in the country is paved. This makes it difficult for vehicles to reach more isolated communities – and the rainy season makes it even worse.

CNBC Africa


Somalia, Kenya agree to ease tensions amid troop build-up along border

Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo today spoke on the phone with his Kenyan counterpart, Uhuru Kenyatta, during which the two leaders discussed ways to ease growing tensions between the two countries on the border towns of Bula Hawo and Mandera.

“In a telephone call, the president of the Federal Government of Somalia, His Excellency Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta agreed on the importance of joint work between the two countries on border security and regional stability,” a statement issued by the Communications and Media Relations of the Somali Presidency said.

“Presidents Farmajo and Kenyatta stressed that the security of the two countries in interlinked and therefore it was necessary that both countries avoid anything that might create misunderstandings,” the statement added.

Somali Affairs

Border row: US pressure may have forced Somalia to back down

Pressure from the US government may have forced Somalia President Mohamed Farmaajo to announce a climbdown in tensions with Kenya.

A day after Nairobi accused Somalia of violating its territorial integrity by having its soldiers fight on Kenyan soil, President Farmaajo placed a call to his Kenyan counterpart, Uhuru Kenyatta, offering to de-escalate the tensions.

The Kenyan government did not speak publicly of the event, even though senior diplomats in Nairobi confirmed it was President Farmaajo who placed a call to President Kenyatta

The East African


Sudan’s June crackdown killed 241 people; rights group says

Sudanese security forces killed 241 people in a crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations last June, an international human rights group said on Thursday.

It was the deadliest episode of a months-long protest movement that kicked off in late 2018 and led to the resignation of veteran President Omar al-Bashir in April 2019 and to civilian rule later that year.

Thousands of Sudanese protesters had camped outside the army headquarters in the capital Khartoum demanding al-Bashir’s removal and kept up their sit-in even after his departure to protest against military rule.

On June 3, armed men in military fatigues moved in on the protest camp and dispersed thousands of demonstrators.


Sudan central bank says US sanctions on 157 firms lifted

Sudan’s central bank announced Wednesday that the United States had informed Khartoum it was lifting sanctions on 157 Sudanese companies, in line with a policy shift by Washington in late 2017.

Central bank governor Badreddine Abdelrahim said in a statement that “only a few Sudanese individuals and entities remain under US sanctions for their links to the conflict in Darfur”, a region hit by a protracted conflict that began in 2003.

Washington announced an end to its 20-year-old trade embargo against Sudan in October 2017, but retained the country on its state sponsors of terror list.

Arab News

South Sudan

Fresh Violence Tempers Hopes After South Sudan Peace Deal

Humanitarian workers say they hope the formation of a national unity government in South Sudan under a peace deal last month will ease suffering in the country, but those expectations have been tempered by reports of continuing violence.

Alain Noudehou has been U.N. humanitarian coordinator in South Sudan since September 2017.  He said there have been some significant changes for the better in the country since then. 

He told VOA that when he arrived, most places were inaccessible to humanitarian workers who sought to take aid to people in desperate need. Over the past year and a half, he said, the environment has been changing for the better as fighting has been reduced and aid workers can now reach most places that were previously out of bounds.

Voice of America

Renew Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan

The United Nations Human Rights Council should keep pressure on South Sudan to address ongoing rights abuses and the need for accountability.

Next Monday, the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan will brief the council on its most recent report which documents continuing human rights abuses and impunity for widespread atrocities committed in the country’s conflict, despite the 2018 peace agreement and formation of a unity government.

The commission concluded in its report that serious crimes continue to be committed, including forced recruitment of children for armed conflict and sexual and gender-based violence, as well as the crime of intentional starvation of the civilian population as a weapon of war. These serious and ongoing crimes and others such as abductions of women and girls warrant the council’s continued scrutiny through the work of the commission, whose current mandate expires this month.

Human Rights Watch

Western Sahara

The Western Sahara question at the center of today’s debates in Algeria

In Algeria, the Western Sahara issue has moved back to the center stage this week. On Wednesday, an Algerian-Danish parliamentary meeting addressed the territorial conflict.

“The president of the commission for foreign affairs Rachid Achour reviewed on Wednesday with the president of the commission for European affairs at the Danish parliament, Eva Kjer Hansen, a series of questions including the situation in Libya, Mali and the Sahrawi question”, Algerian news agency APS wrote.

“Regarding the Sahrawi question, the Danish side stressed the need of implementing the decisions issued by the UN”, APS added. 


Western Sahara liberation movement takes NZ Super Fund to court

The Western Sahara freedom movement has filed papers in the High Court to stop the New Zealand Superannuation Fund from investing in the disputed North African territory claimed by Morocco.

The Polisario Front has warned ?the investments prejudice New Zealand’s reputation as a responsible member of the world community, but the Fund said it does not accept the allegations and will defend the case.

For years the Front has been trying to put a halt to the extraction of the phosphate from Western Sahara by Morocco, which it says belongs to the Sahrawi people.

New Zealand companies Ravensdown and Balance Agri-Nutrients import about $30 million worth of the product a year to spread on farms.