News Briefs 07 August 2021

Southern Africa Focus

Zimbabwe

Chiwenga Hides Potentially Damning Audit Report On Health Ministry Corruption

VICE President and Health minister Constantino Chiwenga has been sitting on the Auditor-General’s specially commissioned audit report for the ministry, which looks at potential abuses of Covid-19 funds, despite the fact that it has been ready for tabling in the National Assembly for months.

The special audit, covering 2020, was commissioned after reports of rampant abuse of Covid-19 at the ministry of Health and Child Care which he leads.

The failure to table the report has since given rise to widespread speculation that it may have been motivated by a deliberate desire to conceal its potentially damming contents, which are still yet to be made public.

The failure has since resulted in Auditor General Mildred Chiri transmitting a copy of the report directly to the Speaker of the National Assembly, who is empowered by law to table it in the event that a responsible minister is unwilling to do so.

AllAfrica 5 August 2021

Still No Justice for Zimbabwe’s 2018 Post-Election Violence

After Zimbabwe’s August 2018 presidential election, I witnessed violent abuses on the streets of Harare, the capital, when uniformed soldiers indiscriminately fired live ammunition at people protesting delayed election results. In a Twitter post, President Emmerson Mnangagwa called for “an independent investigation into what occurred in Harare” and said “those responsible should be identified and brought to justice.”

Mnangagwa later appointed the Motlanthe Commission of Inquiry, which found that six people died and 35 others were injured by state security forces. Yet three years later, Mnangagwa has not implemented the commission’s recommendations, including holding to account members of the security forces responsible for abuses and compensating the families of those killed or who lost property.

Mnangagwa and other high-level government officials made numerous promises to deliver governance reforms to mark a departure from the abusive Robert Mugabe era, but has so far taken few concrete steps to improve people’s lives, rein in corruption, or to demonstrate commitment to accountability, justice, and respect for the rule of law.

Human Rights Watch 2 August 2021

eSwatini

Arrest warrant issued for Eswatini MP

One of the three dissident MPs in Eswatini is consulting his legal team about whether he should hand himself over to the police.

Mduduzi Simelane, a pivotal figure in the recent unrest sparked by demands for democratic reforms in the landlocked monarchy, has been in hiding for about three weeks since he heard that a warrant of arrest had been issued against him. Simelane is also a popular gospel musician known as Magawugawu.

His two colleagues – Mthandeni Dube and Bacede Mabuza – were arrested last Sunday, allegedly based on an order by King Mswati III, and charged under the Suppression of Terrorism Act, which carries a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison.

News24 1 August 2021

As the protests and repression in eSwatini intensify, so must our solidarity

Since protests broke out in June, the police, military and security forces in eSwatini have killed at least 70 protesters and injured many more. This brutal crackdown is the latest and bloodiest act of repression in this small, southern African country, where democracy was suspended nearly half a century ago, and replaced by a monolithic, defective democracy and feudal system of Tinkhundla that entrenched itself on 7 August 1977.

eSwatini is the last feudal dictatorship in Africa, a system described by the current king, 53-year-old Mswati III, as a monarchical democracy, giving prominence to the monarchy and all power vested on him and his parasitic family. The trade union movement in eSwatini, the Trades Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) is a leading part of the struggle for democracy, and has in the past seen its leaders jailed, its unions deregistered, its members immiserated by the rapacious demands of the King and the industries he owns or controls. eSwatini is classified under category 5 of the ITUC’s (International Trade Union Confederation) recently released 2021 Global Rights Index – a country with ‘no guarantee of rights.

With his flamboyant and extravagant lifestyle, King Mswati III and his family continue to squander taxpayers’ money on luxurious goods, and on vanity projects, for example, an airport used mostly by the king’s private jets. He also happens to have one of the largest military and security operations on the continent, while the people of eSwatini live in abject poverty, with little or no social protection, a nation that continues to record the highest rate of HIV-AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa.

Equal Times 6 August 2021

Democratic Republic of Congo

More than dozen people killed by rebels in east DR Congo

At least 16 people were killed in an attack in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) conflict-plagued east, believed to be the work of rebels, military and local sources said.

According to local civilian sources, the victims of Monday’s attack, including two women, had been taken hostage weeks earlier by members of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).

The hostages were knifed to death along a main highway near Idohu, in the restive Ituri province, local official Dieudonne Malangai said on Tuesday.

Ituri’s military governor, Johnny Luboya Nkashama, speaking in Komanda, some 40km (25 miles) from the incident, condemned the killings.

Aljazeera 3 August 2021

DR Congo doctors end three-week strike

A doctors’ union in Democratic Republic of Congo on Wednesday called off a three-week-old strike over pay that had brought hospitals to a near standstill during the country’s third wave of Covid-19.

“All doctors are asked to return to work. The strike is suspended across the country following negotiations with the government,” said Mankoy Badjoki, head of the Synamed physicians’ union.

The government has promised bonuses ranging from 200 000 to 640 000 Congolese francs ($100-$320) as well as promotions for a number of doctors.

During the strike, doctors said they would treat only “extremely urgent” cases, in hospitals that were pre-designated on a rotational basis.

News24 4 August 2021

Central and the Horn of Africa

Somalia

Call for urgent action following ‘alarming’ 80 per cent rise in sexual violence

An “alarming” 80 per cent increase in sexual violence in Somalia, as documented in two recent reports by the Secretary-General, has been described as “appalling” by two UN Special Representatives.

“We urge all parties to the conflict in Somalia to immediately cease these violations”, the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, and the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten said in a statement.

The reports (the Report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict and the Report of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict.) documented that in 2020, 400 civilians, primarily girls, were victims of rape and other forms of sexual violence.

UN News 5 August 2021

Call for Safety of Journalists As Two-Day Training On Professionalism and Access to Information Focuses On Upcoming Elections

The training, financed by the Lord Deedes of Aldington Charitable Trust, focused on essential survival skills for journalists working in dangerous environments, professional responsibility of media during the elections and the importance of access to information for effective reporting.

“Since journalists are charged with the crucial responsibility of keeping people informed about electoral processes, we believe that Somali journalists need to be well trained to acquire skills that enable them to concentrate elections reporting on pertinent issues in an accurate, responsible and impartial manner” said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General.

“This training is particularly intended to help Somali journalists to live up to their ethical responsibility by resisting the pull of negative influences from different actors. With Somalia already voting to elect political representatives, the society is looking to media for accurate and credible information about the electoral process” emphasised Osman.
AllAfrica 5 August 2021

Central Africa Republic

Several civilians killed in rebel attack in northeast Central African Republic, UN says

Rebels killed six civilians and wounded several others Saturday in an attack on a village in the northeast of the volatile Central African Republic, the UN peacekeeping mission said.

“This morning at dawn elements from the 3R (Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation) launched a large-scale attack against C. African army positions in the village of Mann,” the spokesman for the UN’s 12,000-strong MINUSCA mission said.

“Six civilians were killed and several wounded,” he added.

The village is about 550 kilometres (340 miles) from the capital Bangui, Lieutenant Colonel Abdoulaziz Fall told AFP.

“The situation is under control and patrols are under way,” he said.

The 3R, a rebel group composed of members from the Funali ethnic group, is one of several such outfits flourishing in the violence-wracked country.

France24 31 July 2021

UN report calls for urgent end to mounting human rights abuses and violations

A UN report published today details the dire and worsening human rights situation over the past year in the Central African Republic (CAR), where armed groups carried out a violent bid to disrupt elections. In response, the country’s defence and security forces launched military operations to retake territory from them.

The joint report by the UN Human Rights Office and MINUSCA, the UN Mission in CAR, covers the period from July 2020 to June 2021 in the context of the presidential poll, held in December 2020, and legislative elections, which took place in December 2020, and March and May 2021*.

The Human Rights Division of MINUSCA documented 526 incidents of abuses and violations of human rights and international humanitarian law across the country during this period. These violations affected at least 1,221 victims, including 144 civilians or those hors de combat who were killed by the parties to the conflict.

Relief Web 4 August 2021

Sudan

Sudan takes 1st step towards joining International Criminal Court

The Sudanese cabinet has voted to ratify the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court (ICC), a move bringing closer the possibility of former longtime President Omar al-Bashir facing trial for genocide.

Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said in a statement on Twitter the draft bill to join the Rome Statute of The Hague-based court was passed “unanimously”.

Following the military’s overthrow of al-Bashir in 2019, in the wake of mass protests against his rule, Sudan has been led by a transitional civilian-military administration that has pledged to bring justice to victims of crimes committed under the former president.

Sudan is yet to appoint a legislative body, but the decision still needs the approval of the sovereign council, a joint military-civilian body that is the country’s highest authority and is tasked with leading it to free and fair multiparty elections.

Aljazeera 4 August 2021

Death sentences for six paramilitaries for the killing of protesters in 2019

Six members of a Sudanese paramilitary force were sentenced to death on Thursday by a court in the central city of Al-Obeid for the deaths of six protesters in 2019, including four school children.

The trial, broadcast on Sudanese television, concerns events that took place during a mass protest in July 2019 against gasoline and bread shortages in Al-Obeid in the North Kordofan region. The deaths of the protesters had raised a wave of anger in Sudan, and in August 2019, authorities arrested nine paramilitaries from the powerful Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in connection with the violence.

On Thursday, Judge Mohamed Rahma sentenced six of the defendants to death and acquitted two others. The ninth, under the age of 18, was referred to a juvenile court. During the trial, the judge said that the actions of the paramilitaries had been “unnecessary” and “out of proportion” to the alleged verbal provocations of the protesters.The families of the victims demanded, on Thursday during the trial, a “punishment” for the perpetrators.

Africa News 6 August 2021

South Sudan

South Sudan’s Machar says ‘peace spoilers’ removed him from party

South Sudan’s Vice President Riek Machar has accused rival military leaders, who announced he had been deposed as leader of the political party and the armed forces, of trying to block the country’s peace process.

On Wednesday, the military wing of his SPLM/A-IO movement said it had removed Machar, who helped push his partner, President Salva Kiir, to a peace deal in 2018 and the subsequent formation of a unity government, for undermining reforms.

But in a rejoinder issued late on the same day, Machar said those who had issued the statement were no longer members of the movement’s military command council.

“It is regrettable that the declaration was engineered and facilitated by peace spoilers,” Machar said in a statement issued after a meeting of his party’s Political Bureau, deeming the declaration as “ill-fated”.

Aljazeera 5 August 2021

South Sudan: African Union Disappoints on Justice

The African Union Commission’s failure to advance justice for the countless victims of atrocities in South Sudan raises concerns about the regional body’s commitment to accountability, 34 South Sudanese, regional, and international rights organizations said in a letter to the AU Commission released today.

The South Sudanese government, after years of delay, announced on January 29, 2021 that it had approved the establishment of the Hybrid Court for South Sudan, along with truth telling and compensation mechanisms, provided for under the 2018 Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan, which ended the country’s brutal civil war. The AU Commission chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat, welcomed the statement and promised to work with the government to create the court. But six months on, the rights groups said they have found no evidence of any concrete action taken, and the AU has not responded to their June 14 letter.

The people of South Sudan “entrusted the AU to ensure that justice is delivered and contributes to ending the culture of impunity,” the groups said in the letter. “The AU’s apparent inaction raises serious questions about the AU’s credibility not only in atrocity prevention in South Sudan, but across the African continent where many are looking to you for justice.”

Human Rights Watch 5 August 2021

North Africa

Western Sahara

Washington insists on UN-led political process

A spokesperson for the US State Department said Monday that Washington supports a “credible” political process in Western Sahara that will be led by the United Nations with a view to achieving stability in the region.

Responding to a question from the American channel “Al Hurra” on Monday on the policy of the United States towards Western Sahara, the spokesman indicated that “Washington supports a political process enjoying credibility and which will be led by the United Nations, with a view to achieving stability and ensuring the cessation of all hostilities “.

He added: “We are consulting with the parties on the best ways to stop the violence and achieve a lasting settlement.”

“We strongly support the efforts of the United Nations for the rapid designation of a personal envoy of the Secretary General to Western Sahara. We are ready to participate actively with all parties to support this envoy,” he said.

Sahara Press Service 3 August 2021

International Affairs

Palestine

Israeli court adjourns appeal against Sheikh Jarrah expulsions

Israel’s Supreme Court adjourned an appeal from four Palestinian families against their forced expulsion from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in occupied East Jerusalem, as the families say they have rejected a court proposal for them to stay as “protected tenants” but recognise Israeli ownership.

The cases examined on Monday involved four Palestinian families, numbering a total of about 70 people.

Lower Israeli courts have approved the expulsions of the four families to make way for Jewish settlers. They ruled that their houses were built on land owned by Jews before Israel was established in 1948.

Aljazeera 2 August 2021

Palestine condemns ‘Israeli killing of 2 Palestinians in West Bank’

Palestine has condemned the killing of two people, including a child, by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

“It condemns the endless Israeli crimes against the Palestinians in the West Bank without posing any danger to the soldiers,” Xinhua news agency quoted the statement issued on Thursday as saying.

The statement referred to the killing of a 41-year-old Palestinian near the village of Beita in northern West Bank on Tuesday, and the killing of an 11-year-old boy near the southern West Bank city of Hebron on Wednesday.

The statement called on the UN Security Council to take necessary measures to compel Israel to comply with international law and international humanitarian law immediately, as well as to provide international protection for the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza.

The Siasat Daily 30 July 2021

Myanmar

Militia finds 40 bodies in Myanmar jungle after army crackdown, says UN envoy

A Myanmar militia force fighting the army in a central part of the country and residents have found at least 40 bodies in jungle areas in recent weeks, including some showing signs of torture, said a militia member and Myanmar’s UN envoy.

Since the military overthrew the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1, hundreds of people have been killed as the army violently quelled protests, and in clashes between soldiers and often hastily assembled, lightly armed local militias.

The bodies were found in several different locations around Kani, a town in the Sagaing area, which has seen fierce fighting in recent months between the army and the militia groups set up by opponents of military rule.

Reuters could not independently verify the claims and a spokesman for the military did not answer calls seeking comment.

CNN 6 August 2021

UN appeals for funds to fight hunger in Myanmar

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) warned on Friday it may not have enough funding for the next six months to help millions of people in Myanmar facing food insecurity amid a wave of Covid-19 infections and political unrest in the southeast Asian nation.

The WFP said in a statement it needs $86 million dollars to help fight hunger in the country, which is battling rising Covid-19 infections and has been in chaos since the military ousted an elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi on 1 February.

“We have seen hunger spreading further and deeper in Myanmar,” WFP Myanmar Country Director Stephen Anderson said in the statement.

News24 6 August 2021