News Briefs: 09 December 2016

Democratic Republic of Congo

EU/US: Sanction Senior DR Congo Officials

The European Union and United States should expand targeted sanctions against those most responsible for recent violent repression and other serious human rights violations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a coalition of 72 Congolese and 15 international human rights organizations said today.

Ten days before the December 19, 2016, deadline marking the end of President Joseph Kabila’s constitutionally mandated two-term limit, he still has not made any clear commitment on when or even if he will step down. At the same time, government repression against pro-democracy activists, the political opposition, largely peaceful protesters, and the media has intensified at an alarming rate.

Human Rights Watch

US Envoy Hopes for Last-minute Political Deal in DRC

December 19 marks the end of President Joseph Kabila’s second five-year term in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and many in the country are nervous as the date approaches.

Elections were to have been held this year but have not been organized. Kabila now plans to remain in office until polls can be held in 2018. A large opposition coalition known as the Rassemblement views the president’s prolonged second and, under the constitution, final term as a power grab. This group wants him to leave at the end of his mandate, and it calls for elections in 2017.

The lack of common ground between the parties has observers fearing a repeat of September 19, when a Rassemblement demonstration in Kinshasa descended into violence. The United Nations says security forces killed more than 50 people over two days.

Voice of America


Somalia recaptures town from IS-linked fighters; 34 dead

A Somali official says security forces have recaptured a port town from Islamic State-linked fighters in the semi-autonomous state of Puntland.

Yusuf Mohamed, the governor of Puntland’s commercial hub of Bossaso, says 30 militants and four soldiers were killed during the operation today to recapture Qandala.

Residents confirmed that troops entered the town after fighters retreated into nearby villages.

The seizure of Qandala in October had been the first victory for the Islamic State-linked fighters, who are expanding the areas under their control amid a rivalry with the homegrown al-Shabab extremist group.

Times of India



Somalia’s National Leadership Forum kicks off in Mogadishu

Somalia’s caretaker President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has officially opened the National Consultative Forum in the Somali capital of Mogadishu on Wednesday, Garowe Online reports.

Leaders of the Federal Member States of Puntland, Southwest, Galmudag, Hirshabelle and Jubbaland are attending the meeting at Halane compound, AMISOM headquarters in Somalia.

International diplomats led by Michael Keating, the Special Representative of the United Nations for Somalia are also in attendance in the meeting with the Somali leaders.

The talks are expected to focus on range of issues mainly on the ongoing parliamentary and upcoming presidential election of the horn of African nation. The meeting comes as the country is near to wrap up the ballot of both Lower and Upper Houses of Federal Parliament in the capitals of regional states.

Garowe Online

Central African Republic

UN completes investigations into allegations pf sexual abuse by peacekeepers

The United Nations announced today that it has completed an internal investigation into allegations of sexual abuse against Burundian and Gabonese peacekeepers deployed in Dekoa, Kemo prefecture, Central African Republic (CAR).

The UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) interviewed 139 people and then investigated their accounts. 16 possible perpetrators from Gabon and 25 from Burundi have been identified through photos and corroborating evidence. Of the 139 victims, 25 were minors who asserted that they were sexually assaulted. Eight paternity claims have been filed, six of which were by minors.

The United Nations has shared the report with the Governments of Burundi and Gabon, which includes the names of the identified alleged perpetrators. It has requested that appropriate judicial action proceed in order to ensure criminal accountability.

UN News

U.N. condemns recent outbreak of violence in Central African Republic

The peaceful and successful transition in the Central African Republic is apparently been marred by the recent outbreak of violence.

A United Nations official in the Central Africa region made this known to the Security Council.

The acting head of the UN Regional Office for Central Africa, François Fall, said the violence “resulted in a high number of fatalities, demonstrating once more the extreme fragility of the situation.”

But he admitted that the efforts of Lake Chad Basin countries in fighting terrorism have resulted in substantial military and security successes.

TVC News


Sudan arrests top human rights activist – Amnesty

Sudanese security agents have arrested a prominent rights activist, Mudawi Ibrahim Adam, as part of an ongoing crackdown on dissent, Amnesty International said on Thursday.

The 58-year-old was taken into custody on Wednesday at the University of Khartoum where he works as a professor of engineering, the rights watchdog said.

“He was arrested by National Intelligence and Security Service agents… and taken to an undisclosed location where he is at a grave risk of torture and other ill-treatment,” Amnesty said in a statement.


Austerity measures fuel discontent in Bashir’s Sudan

Tensions are high as Sudan’s government tries to resolve the country’s economic troubles. Following the secession of South Sudan in 2011, Sudan’s economy has struggled to recover after losing three-quarters of its oil production. Additionally, rising inflation and US sanctions are adding to the discontent.

Protests started in late November. Hundreds of pharmacies closed their doors and went on strike last month in solidarity with protesters and in response to the rising costs of medicine.

The Sudanese people have also been using several hashtags in Arabic and English, like #SudanCivilDisobedience, to share how they have been affected by austerity measures, fuel subsidy cuts and price increases in medication, food and electricity.


South Sudan security arrest senior relief official in Juba

South Sudan’s National Security Service on Thursday afternoon arrested the Country Director of Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), Victor Moses. Victor was picked from his office in Tonpping and taken to NSS detention center in Jebel.

A source told Radio Tamazuj yesterday evening that the three officers in plain clothes came around 1pm at their office in Tonyping, near the US Residence, asked the security guard at the gate that that they want to see the country director.

“Three security personnel came this afternoon and asked the security guards at the gate that they want to meet the country director, but minutes later, a full truck of soldiers in uniform entered into the office compound and picked him,” he said.

“They picked him from the office and to the National Security office in Jebel were he’s currently held inside. There is no any clear reason given, as we are talking now, he’s now sleeping inside the national security detention site,” he said.

Radio Tamazuj

Us Worries About Spiralling Violence in South Sudan – State Department

The United States is alarmed by the violence in South Sudan, where ethnically motivated hate speech, the targeting of civilians and sexual violence is becoming widespread and cannot be ignored, the State Department said on Monday.

“The United States is alarmed by the violence in the Equatoria region of South Sudan and concerned it could quickly spiral out of control,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement. “This situation is intolerable, will worsen the already dire humanitarian crisis.”

The United States has confirmed that more than 1,900 houses have been destroyed in the Central Equatoria of South Sudan since September, he said in a statement.


Western Sahara

EU should share Algeria’s position on Western Sahara conflict

Vice-Chair of the European Parliament’s Delegation for relations with Maghreb countries, Maria Teresa Gimenez Barbat, said that the duty of the European Union should be to share Algeria’s position on the Western Sahara, and underlined its crucial role in the stabilization of North Africa and the fight against terrorism.

“The EU’s duty should be to share the same position as Algeria and defend Sahrawi people’s right to decide their future,” wrote recently Gimenez Barbat in the European Parliament Magazine, Opinion.

In this regard, the MEP said that “Algeria has always expressed its unconditional support to the Sahrawi people’s right to self-determination and the independence of Western Sahara, which has been occupied by Morocco since 1975.”

Sahara Press Service

France supports search for “just, lasting and mutually agreed” solution

France supports the search for a “just, lasting and mutually agreed” solution to Western Sahara conflict, reaffirmed on Tuesday the French foreign ministry spokesperson.

“The position of France about this issue is known and constant. France supports the search for a just, lasting and mutually agreed solution, under the aegis of the United Nations and in compliance with the Security Council resolutions,” spokesman Romain Nadal told an online news conference.

To a question on the reception of a Sahrawi human rights defenders delegation at the French Foreign Ministry, as reported Monday by APS, the spokesman said that representatives of associations held discussion on Western Sahara at the Quai d’Orsay.

Sahara Press service


Madagascar’s £152m vanilla industry soured by child labour and poverty

ine-year-old Xidollien has no idea that the vanilla pods he and his family so painstakingly cultivate throughout the year on their small vanilla farm in the north of Madagascar is one of the most valuable spices in the world.

He hides behind his mother, Liliane, as she stands among the family’s vanilla plants . He has spent all morning clearing weeds from the land with a machete. Tomorrow will be the same for him and thousands of other children in the northern region of the island.

Roughly 80% of the vanilla sold on the global market comes from Madagascar. Madagascan vanilla is used in chocolate, cakes and ice-cream sold to consumers around the globe by some of the world’s biggest brands.

The Guardian


U.S.$360 Million Missing Govt Funds – Swazi Workers Threaten ‘National Shutdown’

Swaziland’s largest workers’ federation has reportedly demanded a thorough investigation into alleged missing government funds from the country’s treasury department.

According to Voice of America, the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) threatened to embark on a nationwide industrial action if the country’s prime minister Barnabas Dlamini failed to institute an independent investigation over the missing funds.

An independent forensic audit of the accountant general’s office conducted by Kobla Quashie Consultants reportedly revealed that the government treasury department bank accounts had a $360m shortfall.

Zimbabwe Unveils $4 Billion National Budget with Projected Billion Dollar Deficit

Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa has unveiled a $4.1 billion budget for 2017 with a projected funding gap of at least $400 million and state wage bill set to gobble the bulk of the budget.

Presenting the budget in parliament today, Chinamasa said the country is expected to grow by 1,7% from 0.6% estimated this year.

He said agriculture and mining are expected to drive overall growth with sector growth of 12% and 0.9% respectively in 2017.

Inflation is projected at 1.1% from a negative 1.5% in 2016 while total revenues are projected at $3.7 billion with total expenditure estimated at $4.1 billion.

Zimbabwe will have a financing gap of $400 million with capital expenditure amounting to $520 million, which is 3.6% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Voice of America

British bank may finance Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s cash-strapped government

Standard Chartered Bank is considering the financing of a $262m (£206m) package to bail out President Robert Mugabe’s cash-strapped government.

Bretton Woods institutions ? including the World Bank (WB), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and African Development Bank (ADB) ? suspended their financial assistance to Zimbabwe in 1999 when the nation defaulted, and rendered it unable to clear a $1.8bn (then £1.36bn) debt it owes the institutions.

In 2014, the IMF stated the government needed to pay off its arrears and restore confidence by implementing economic reforms, social development and poverty eradication programmes if it was to be awarded financial assistance to aid its struggling economy.

International Business Times



Africa in General

Uganda sends 2,745 troops to Somalia

The Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) has commissioned 2,745 new soldiers to Somalia to replace an equal number of fighters who have been recalled from the battlefield after serving for one year.

The first batch of 80 soldiers left Entebbe Airport on Monday morning aboard a Boeing 737 managed by Ocean Airlines Company and landed at the Adan Abdulle International Airport at about 07.30hrs, East African time.

The UPDF deputy spokesman, Major Henry Obbo, said more troops were scheduled to join their colleagues in the war-torn country in an exercise that will take a week or more, depending on the air situation and other factors.

New Vision

AU to hold first-ever debate for contenders seeking to replace Dlamini-Zuma

The African Union Commission is reportedly set to hold its first-ever debate for the five candidates seeking to head the continental body and take over from the current chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

According to BBC Live, an invitation from the commission stated that all the candidates who had expressed interest in contesting would take part in a “town hall-style” debate on December 9 at the AU’s headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The elections were due in January 2017.

“It is our sincere belief that this debate will help in the transformation of our union and Africa, as often elections of the union leadership occur behind closed doors, thus denying the broad African public an opportunity to be informed and participate in the work of the commission,” the commission was quoted as saying.


Angola to announce President Dos Santos’s successor

Angola is expected to formally announce the end of President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos’ controversial 37-year rule on Saturday, and name a successor to lead the ailing African oil-producing country.

News of the veteran leader’s impending retirement, announced on state radio on December 2, has made front page news in Angolan newspapers all week.

But the ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), in power since 1975, has officially remained silent on the matter.

On Saturday, on the 60th anniversary of its founding, the party is expected to confirm that Dos Santos, 74, will not seek another term as president in the 2017 party elections.


Zimbabwe to release another 7 million bond notes – central bank

Zimbabwe’s central bank says it is about to “drip-feed” another seven million US worth of bond notes into circulation – just as the finance minister readies for a difficult budget.

Said an RBZ statement on Wednesday: “The bank would like to advise the public that it is releasing the second batch of $2 bond notes amounting to $7m this week.”

Ten million US worth of bond notes – a surrogate currency that Zimbabweans are extremely sceptical of – were put into circulation last Monday.