News Briefs 08 June 2018

Democratic Republic of Congo

Democratic Republic of Congo OKs experimental Ebola treatments

The Democratic Republic of Congo has approved new experimental drugs to treat Ebola as the central African country tries to stem its latest outbreak, the World Health Organization said Wednesday.

An ethics committee said the therapies could be used on the grounds of compassionate care.

The DRC declared a new outbreak of the Ebola virus in early May in the Equateur province. As of Monday, there have been 37 confirmed cases, 14 probable cases, seven suspected cases and 27 deaths, according to Peter Salama, deputy director-general for emergency preparedness and response for WHO.

The virus has largely been confined to the city of Mbandaka and surrounding rural towns. Health officials have targeted points of entry into the area for in-depth medical assessments. They also attempted to halt the spread of the disease using an experimental vaccine.

DR Congo crisis stirs concerns in central Africa

Across central Africa, a belt of countries is casting a wary eye at the political crisis brewing in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), fearing the impact on their security and economy if the situation explodes.

Nine countries share a border with the DRC, one of the biggest and most troubled nations in Africa — and the theatre of two wars in the late 1990s and early 2000s that sucked in countries around the region and led to the deaths of three million people.

From the Republic of Congo and Angola in the west to Uganda and Rwanda in the east, memories of that traumatic period remain razor sharp today as their vast neighbour’s political future hangs in the balance.

“The DRC is the mother of all crises,” Angolan Foreign Minister Manuel Domingo Augustos told the French daily Le Monde in January. “What happens there affects the entire Great Lakes region.”



UN warns that Somalia’s political unity at risk

The UN Security Council warned on Thursday that “internal and external pressures risk undermining Somalia’s political unity” and expressed serious concern at the ongoing threats posed by the al-Shabab extremist group.

A presidential statement approved by the 15-member council calls for stepped-up efforts “to prevent destabilizing effects of regional crises and disputes from spilling over into Somalia” and to support the country’s federal system and institutions.


Somalia, which borders restive Kenya and lies across the Gulf of Aden from conflict-wracked Yemen, began to fall apart in 1991, when warlords ousted dictator Siad Barre and then turned on each other.

Years of conflict and attacks by al-Shabab, along with famine, shattered the country of some 12 million people. It has been trying to rebuild since establishing its first functioning transitional government in 2012.


UN appeals for ‘unhindered’ access for Somalia aid

The United Nations Security Council called Thursday for “unhindered humanitarian access” in Somalia, expressing concern about the risk of famine in the conflict-racked country.

“The Security Council expresses deep concern about the humanitarian situation in Somalia, including the continued risk of famine and the impact of recent flooding,” the council said in a statement adopted Thursday.

“The Security Council notes with concern that the fighting has exacerbated the humanitarian situation and calls on all parties to allow and facilitate full, safe, rapid and unhindered humanitarian access,” it said.

Arab News

Central African Republic

Central African Republic Approves War Crimes Court

Central African Republic has approved a law creating a special criminal court to investigate allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity during more than a decade of ethnic and religious conflict, a lawmaker said.

Hundreds have died in the violence and scores more have been raped and tortured, but the perpetrators have not faced any meaningful legal pursuit, rights activists say.

“With this law, we will now be able to count on the justice system to put an end to the conflicts, to the killings, to the massacres,” Ernest Mezedio, a national deputy, told Reuters on Wednesday.

“The executioners who walk around freely should know that the hour of justice has sounded,” he said. The country’s parliament approved the law late on Tuesday.


1 UN peacekeeper dead, 7 wounded in Central African Republic

The United Nations said Monday that a Tanzanian peacekeeper was killed and seven others wounded in the Central African Republic when a U.N. patrol was ambushed.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the attack happened Sunday in Dilapoko, a village in Mambere-Kadei Prefecture in the country’s southwest.

He said one of wounded peacekeeper was in critical condition and was taken to the capital, Bangui, for treatment at the U.N. Mission’s military hospital along with three other soldiers whose condition was serious.

The U.N. mission in Central African Republic is one of the deadliest peacekeeping missions. The country has seen deadly interreligious and intercommunal fighting since 2013, when predominantly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in the capital and mainly Christian anti-Balaka militias fought back.

Tampa Bay Times


EU calls on Sudan to commute death sentence of teen who killed husband

The European Parliament has called on the Sudanese government to commute the death sentence of a woman who killed her husband after he raped her. Noura Hussein, now 19, was forced into the marriage at the age of 16.

The Sudan Tribune reported that the young woman had been held down by the brother of her husband, a relative and a third person to assist in her rape. The next day she stabbed him to death after he tried to force himself on her again.

The woman was sentenced to death in May after her family refused to accept compensation, in a case that has raised international solidarity.

The European Parliament “deplores and condemns the sentencing to death of Noura Hussein Hammad; calls on the Sudanese authorities to commute the death sentence and fully take into account the fact that Hussein was acting in self-defence against the attempt by a man and his accomplices to rape her”, according to a recently adopted resolution.


Sudan Says It Has Cut All Defence Ties with North Korea

Sudan said on Wednesday it had cut all defence ties with North Korea, in a rare admission that it used to have such ties in the first place.

The announcement came as Washington is locked in a standoff over Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear weapons programmes, and as Sudan, which is still on the US list of state sponsors of terrorism, reels from an economic crisis.

“Sudan’s government would like to affirm that its defence production sector has cancelled all contracts … with North Korea, and ended all relations, direct or through a third party,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.


South Sudan

S Sudan rebel chief ‘happy’ to meet Kiir but denies Khartoum talks

South Sudan’s armed opposition said that leader Riek Machar would be “happy” to meet with his bitter rival President Salva Kiir but denied knowledge of planned talks in Khartoum.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir this week offered to host a meeting between the warring parties as regional leaders seek an end to the more than four-year civil war in South Sudan which has resisted numerous peace efforts.

Kiir’s spokesperson, Ateny Wek Ateny, told AFP that such a meeting was to take place at the end of June, after his boss apparently welcomed the encounter.

However, Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in-Opposition (SPLM-IO) slammed this as “disinformation”.


South Sudan’s dire humanitarian crisis worsens – NGO

A humanitarian crisis in conflict-torn South Sudan is reaching alarming proportions after four and a half years of fighting, Jan Egeland of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) warned on Thursday.

“I’ve never before seen, heard, experienced so many people being so food-insecure in so many places in South Sudan,” he told a press conference in Nairobi.

“What is different this year is that the acute food insecurity has spread to more parts of the country,” such as southern Equatoria, he said.

In February, UN agencies warned that 48 percent of South Sudan’s population was experiencing extreme hunger and seven million would need aid in 2018.

In 2017 some 100,000 people were affected by a famine — meaning people started dying due to lack of food. It was declared over in June.

Daily Monitor

Western Sahara

Ramaphosa condemns humanitarian crisis in Western Sahara

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday said the protracted humanitarian crisis in Western Sahara’s refugee camps was a direct consequence of the delay in finding a lasting solution to the conflict in the North Africa region.

Ramaphosa’s comments follow his bilateral meeting with Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic President Brahim Ghali in Pretoria. Ghali is in the country on a working visit.

Upon concluding their meeting, Ramaphosa said a memorandum signed between the two African countries regarding the current conflict and humanitarian crisis provides his country with an opportunity to assist the people of Western Sahara, particularly those who continue to struggle in refugee camps.

“The lack of a solution is also an impediment towards greater regional integration and security cooperation in the Maghreb region,” Ramaphosa said in a statement adding “in our discussions, we expressed our full support and confidence in the efforts undertaken by the UN Secretary General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, Mr Horst Köhler, to bring the parties together and mobilise the international community to implement all UN resolutions on Western Sahara.”


Namibians rally behind Western Sahara

“Why isn’t Morocco fulfilling its obligation to the United Nations (UN) Security Council for the self-determination of Western Sahara?  Why are economic sanctions not being imposed on Morocco? Can we accept an African country being a coloniser of another? What is being done to put pressure

on France and Spain, which are blocking the independence of Western Sahara? What are the pressure tactics Namibia can use to talk to the African Union (AU) for the independence of Western Sahara?”

These were some of the pressing questions posted to President Brahim Ghali of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) during a public lecture on the current political development in the SADR in Windhoek on Monday.

Namibians, who came to listen to the public lecture, made it known in no uncertain terms that they were in full solidarity of the Sahrawi’s struggle for independence from Morocco as they sang liberation songs and chanted, “Down Morocco, down!”

Sahara Press Service


Election Board Targets Fewer Voters

Swaziland’s Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) is targeting to register fewer voters for the forthcoming national election than registered at the last poll in 2013.

EBC Chairman Chief Gija Dlamini said it was targeting 500,000 voters. The Swazi Observer reported on Friday (1 June 2018) he said, ‘It could be a miracle to have all eligible Emaswati [Swazi people] turning out for registering but we are expecting the number to reach 80 per cent.’ If this figure is met, 400,000 people will register. He said 278,888 people had already registered.

The 400,000 target is fewer than the 414,704 people who registered to vote in 2013.


China angles for Swaziland to ditch Taiwan before major African summit

China hopes self-ruled Taiwan’s only remaining African ally, Swaziland, will sever ties with Taipei before China hosts a summit of African leaders this year, the foreign ministry said on Friday, keeping up the pressure on Taiwan.

Taiwan is claimed by China as its own, with Beijing saying that as it is merely a Chinese province it has no right to state-to-state relations.

Taiwan has lost two diplomatic allies in the past month, most recently the West African state of Burkina Faso, which re-established ties with Beijing last weekend. The Chinese government’s top diplomat State Councilor Wang Yi urged Swaziland to follow suit.



Zimbabwe’s MDC-T pledges $100B economy if it wins vote

Zimbabwe’s main opposition party says it will create a $100 billion economy within a decade and improve ties with Israel if it wins the July 30 elections.

The MDC-T, which has re-energized under 40-year-old Nelson Chamisa, launched its election manifesto Thursday.

The state broadcaster, which is closely aligned with the ruling party, provided rare live coverage.


President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who took power in November when longtime leader Robert Mugabe stepped down under pressure, has promised free and fair elections in a country with a history of disputed polls.

Both Mnangagwa and the opposition pledge to improve the once-prosperous economy and attract foreign investors put off by years of international sanctions.


MDC wants Zimbabwe to join Rand Monetary Union

The MDC Alliance launched its election manifesto in Harare on Thursday‚ vowing to deal with Zanu-PF’s “economic mischief” ‚ should its candidate‚ Nelson Chamisa‚ romp to victory.

Presenting the party’s Sustainable and Modern Agenda for Real Transformation (SMART) document‚ finance minister from the inclusive government of 2009-13 Tendai Biti said they would seek to join the Rand Monetary Union as a stopgap measure to address the country’s economic woes.

Currently the rand is being used under a basket of currencies but pricing of goods and services is in US dollars.

“We seek to strengthen the multi-currency regime while we work towards joining the rand union and scrapping the bond notes totally‚” said Biti.




Africa in General

South Sudan and Sudan agree to repair damaged oil infrastructure

South Sudan said on Thursday it had agreed with its northern neighbor Sudan to repair oil infrastructure facilities destroyed by conflict within three months to boost production in Africa’s youngest country.

Michael Makuei Lueth, South Sudan’s information minister, told Reuters officials agreed with their visiting Sudanese counterparts to “evaluate and assess the damage” to South Sudan’s oilfields in the Heglig area in the country’s north.

“There is an agreement between the two oil ministries of the two countries. They agreed to cooperate and work together in order to repair (the damage),” he said.

South Sudan depends virtually entirely on oil sales for its revenue but production has declined since war broke out in the country in 2013.


Raila Odinga heads to South Africa to broker South Sudan peace deal

Opposition chief Raila Odinga heads to South Africa this morning in his second leg of talks with South Sudan leaders in a bid to end three years civil war. Weeks after Raila travelled to Juba, where he held talks with President Salva Kiir, he is expected to meet with rebel leader Riek Machar, in an effort to reconcile the duo. The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) has given them up to June 30th to reach a deal.

The meeting is expected to complement IGAD’s peace talks which ended prematurely after parties failed to agree on a power-sharing structure or details about how to absorb rebel forces into the national army.

The National Assembly Minority leader John Mbadi said yesterday confirmed the trip saying it reaffirms Raila’s image as a preeminent statesman on the continent.

Standard Media

Burundi president promises to step down in 2020

Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza said in a surprise announcement on Thursday that he will not run in the 2020 elections, despite a recent referendum allowing longer term limits.

“Our presidential mandate will end in 2020,” said Nkurunziza, who has been in power since 2005, at a ceremony in central Gitega province.

“I am ready, with all my heart and all my intelligence, to support the one who will be the new president in 2020,” added the 54-year-old former rebel leader who was recently declared “supreme eternal leader” by the ruling party.

Nkurunziza made the announcement some two weeks after a large majority of Burundians voted “yes” in a referendum on presidential term limits that could allow Nkurunziza to stay in power until 2034.


Tunisia PM fires top minister amid alarm over migrant deaths

Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed on Wednesday fired his interior minister amid recriminations over a capsized boat of migrants off the coast of the North African country in the deadliest shipwreck this year on the dangerous Mediterranean Sea route to Europe.

The announcement did not say why Lotfi Brahem was fired but came a day after Brahem dismissed 10 high-level security officials amid an investigation into the weekend disaster. An estimated 112 people were known to be dead or missing.

Officials have cited “security failures” surrounding the capsizing early Sunday of the old, overloaded boat near Kerkennah Island off the coast of the city of Sfax. The boat was carrying an estimated 180 people.

Among those fired based on preliminary investigations into the sinking are the heads of the judicial police and National Guard in Sfax and the head of the maritime border patrol in Kerkennah.