News Briefs 09 February 2018

Democratic Republic of Congo

UN Expects Congo Offensive Against Eastern Rebels To Displace 370,000

A military offensive launched last month by Congolese troops against Ugandan militants in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is likely to force nearly 370,000 people from their homes, the United Nations said on Thursday.

The fallout from a joint effort by Congo and Uganda to defeat the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) will compound Africa’s worst displacement crisis and further stretch meager humanitarian resources.

Persistent conflict in Congo’s eastern borderlands with Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi and insurrection in the center of the country have displaced 4.3 million people internally. Last year, it led the United Nations to declare Congo a level three humanitarian emergency – on par with Iraq, Syria and Yemen.


DRC crisis: aide says Kabila not standing in elections

Joseph Kabila, the president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, whose refusal to step down at the end of his mandate in 2016 resulted in ongoing, bloody street protests, will not stand in elections due to be held this year, a key aide has said.

Lambert Mende, the minister of communications, said Kabila, who has been in office since 2001, had never intended to seek a third term and would not seek to appoint a candidate to represent his interests in the polls, currently scheduled for December.

“This is not a kingdom, where the king appoints an heir. It is a democratic republic,” Mende told the Guardian on Wednesday.

Kabila’s second term as president expired in December 2016 and he has been accused of deliberately delaying preparations for a new poll. The central African country is in the grip of a worsening humanitarian crisis fuelled by inter-ethnic conflict and food insecurity.

The Guardian


Somalia court issues death sentence over Oct. 2017 Mogadishu attack

A court in the Somalia capital Mogadishu has sentenced a man to death for his role in the suicide bomb attacks in October 2017.

The attacks killed over 500 people according to official records. It has been tagged the deadliest attack in a country that is beset by onslaughts from Al-Shabaab insurgents.

The convict, Hassan Aden Isak, according to the court was driving a truck intended to be used in a second bombing on the day.

A second person was also handed a similar sentence for his role in the incident. The court sentenced Ibrahim Hassan Absuge in absentia. He is believed to have brought the truck that subsequently detonated.

Africa News

Urgent help sought for AU force’s planned Somalia withdrawal

The African Union mission in Somalia’s planned withdrawal of 21 000 troops from the extremist-threatened Horn of Africa nation by 2020 cannot be met without urgent help from the international community, the mission’s chief said on Saturday.

In an interview, Francisco Madeira told The Associated Press he fears all gains made in the past decade could be lost in an abrupt departure.

Speaking on the sidelines of an African Union summit, he said the world must “fast-track” to meet the 2020 goal of handing over security responsibilities to Somalia’s military. “The UN and other partners must understand that this enterprise needs additional resources,” he said.


Central African Republic

Thousands flee militia violence in Central Africa

About 7,400 people have been forced to flee their homes as fighting raged between rival militias in northwest Central African Republic, the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Thursday.

The internally displaced people in the area of Markounda since late December have faced living conditions that “are extremely difficult,”, according to the ICRC, which is working alongside the Central African Red Cross and the NGO Doctors Without Borders.

“Families are confined to makeshift huts. The only health centre in Markounda has been looted since the outbreak of hostilities, there are not enough showers and latrines,” said Jean-Francois Sangsue, head of the ICRC delegation in Bangui.


‘Drugs and ammo’ found in UN contractor’s vehicle in CAR

A stash of drugs and ammunition was found hidden in a truck chartered by a private company under contract with the UN in Central African Republic, the UN’s mission in the country MINUSCA said on Thursday.

“MINUSCA has opened an investigation,” after Blue Helmets discovered several hundred shotgun cartridges hidden in containers, and an unspecified drug, in Ippy in central CAR, mission spokesperson Vladimir Monteiro told AFP.

All UN materials transported by private companies in CAR are in sealed containers marked “UN”, but Monteiro said “these goods were not in the sealed containers”, but “under” the cargo.

The truck belonged to a subcontractor of Dubai-based company Ecolog – a provider of services, including transport – under contract with the UN in the CAR.



Sudan seizes 3 newspapers for covering protests

Sudanese security agents seized the entire print-runs of three newspapers on Thursday after they covered food price protests in Khartoum and other towns, their editors said.

Opposition groups have organised repeated demonstrations since bread prices jumped in early January when a government decision to leave wheat imports to the private sector triggered a sharp rise in the cost of flour.

Several newspapers have criticised the government’s decision, and on Thursday agents of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) confiscated the print-runs of Al-Tayar, Al-Midan and Al-Jadida newspapers.

“The agents of NISS confiscated all copies of our newspaper today without giving any reason,” Al-Jadida editor Ashraf Abdelaziz told AFP.


Sudan says ambassador to Cairo to return ‘very soon’

Sudan’s foreign minister says the country’s ambassador to Cairo will return to Egypt “very soon.”

Ibrahim Ghandour spoke on Thursday, more than a month after Sudan recalled its ambassador to Egypt for consultation, at the time signaling deteriorating relations.

Ghandour’s statements were made during a news conference in Cairo with Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry. Both stressed strong ties between the two countries.

Earlier, the two foreign ministers met with the heads of the intelligence services of both countries.

Cairo’s ties with Khartoum have been tense over Sudan’s revival of a longstanding border dispute. Egypt and Sudan have been also at odds over Khartoum’s perceived support for the construction of a massive Nile dam in Ethiopia that Cairo fears will reduce its vital water share.


South Sudan

Freed South Sudan Child Soldiers Recount Trauma of Abduction

Bakhita was only 12 years old when rebels snatched her from her family’s farm, adding her to a grim list of almost 19,000 children that the United Nations says have been recruited, often by force, by armed groups in South Sudan’s brutal civil war.


“I was thinking of my family every day. Sometimes, I cried but I couldn’t escape, the soldiers were everywhere in the bushes,” Bakhita told Reuters in a soft voice from the western town of Yambio, where she was among hundreds of children handed over to the UN on Wednesday.

She had been with the rebels two years, she said.

“There’s no house. We sleep in a tent. Sometimes at night, some soldiers come to my place and want to rape me by force. If I resist, they will beat me and make me cook for a week as a punishment for refusing to sleep with them,” the 14-year-old said, beginning to cry.


South Sudan peace talks stall over punitive provision

South Sudan peace talks have stalled over a text mediators and opposition officials want added to a provision that authorizes levying punitive measures against individuals who violate the peace process.

The parties, multiple sources attending the ongoing talks said, also failed to reach a consensus on governance and security sector reform matters.

Government officials at the talks told Sudan Tribune on Thursday that they agreed on many issues but were unable to sign the agreement on declaration of principles because their team rejected a text which says peace violators should be sanctioned.

Sudan Tribune

Western Sahara

Polisario ‘ready’ for direct Western Sahara talks with Rabat

The Polisario Front which seeks independence for Western Sahara said Monday it is ready for direct negotiations with Morocco on the future of the disputed territory.

Mohamed Salem Ould Salek, foreign minister of the self-declared Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic which controls a thin strip of the territory, said a Polisario delegation had met in Berlin on January 25 with the UN envoy on Western Sahara, Horst Koehler.

“This is a new phase of discussions aimed at preparing for a new phase of direct negotiations,” he told a news conference in Algiers, which supports the Polisario.

The Polisario is “ready for direct negotiations with the Kingdom of Morocco to make peace”, Ould Salek said.

Morocco has also said it would meet with Koehler, a former German president appointed in August as special envoy to lead a new UN push for talks, but without giving a date.

The Citizen

Western Sahara: President Gali receives African Court delegation

Sahrawi President, Secretary General of Frente POLISARIO Brahim Ghali has received the delegation of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, on a working visit to the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) since Monday.

“Gali welcomed the visit of the African Court’s delegation to SADR institutions, wishing them pleasant stay in the Sahrawi Republic and refugee camps,”

In a statement to the press after the audience, the president of the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights, Sylvain Ore said that the visit “aims at increasing awareness of the importance of the African Court, especially for states that ratified the Protocol of its creation.”

He also hailed the positive commitment of SADR, which is among the thirty countries that ratified the Protocol and among the fifty-five members of the African Union.

Sahara Press Service


Swaziland: Schools in Chaos

Schools across Swaziland are in chaos at the start of the new academic year.

Children have been turned away because there are no spaces for them in classes at High School. This is because the kingdom has in recent years introduced free primary school education. Now children have graduated there are not enough places in secondary schools. Parents were reported by local media to be walking from school to school in unsuccessful attempts to get their children placed.

Minister of Education Phineas Magagula told the Swazi Observer that new classes had been built across the kingdom to accommodate the expected influx of schoolchildren. Magagula was unable to tell media exactly how many new schools had been opened and how many had been upgraded from secondary to high school.


Swaziland: True Life of Swazi Prime Minister

Swaziland’s unelected Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini has published the first volume of his autobiography. It runs for 500 pages and more books are promised.

Unsurprisingly newspapers such as the Swazi Observer which is in effect owned by King Mswati III, the absolute monarch who appointed Dlamini to office with the order to attack democrats who wanted political parties to be able to contest elections, was full of praise for the book.

The Observer on Saturday (3 February 2018) reported, ‘Dlamini disclosed during the launch of his book that he was inspired to write the book by the absence of a significant number of similar accounts by prominent public figures in Swaziland.’

Dlamini who is a very sick man turned 75 in May 2017. Informed readers (that is those who don’t rely solely on the censored and self-censoring news media in Swaziland) will not bother to buy the book which retails at E300 (US$25). Most people in Swaziland where seven in ten of the 1.3 million population have incomes of less than US$2 per day would not be able to afford it even if they wanted to buy.



Zimbabwe’s top opposition party hurt by power struggles

Power struggles are ravaging Zimbabwe’s main opposition party months before the election as party leader Morgan Tsvangirai seeks cancer treatment in neighbouring South Africa.

Three deputies are vying to act as MDC-T party leader in Tsvangirai’s absence. Spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka told reporters that Tsvangirai remains unwell but will return to the country “soon”. The spokesperson described those interested in succeeding him as “political vultures.”

The 65-year-old Tsvangirai has dominated opposition politics for close to two decades as the leading voice against former president Robert Mugabe, who resigned under pressure in November.

The upcoming election will be the first without Mugabe, who led the southern African country for 37 years. The opposition is scrambling to counter new President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a longtime Mugabe ally who has vowed that the election will be free and fair as he seeks to re-engage the international community after years of sanctions over alleged human rights abuses.


Zim land reforms: 99-year-leases ‘now bankable, transferable’, says official

Zimbabwe’s reserve bank governor, John Mangudya, has reportedly said that local banks have agreed to finance farmers after government tweaked the country’s 99-year land leases to be “transferable and bankable”.

According to the state-owned Herald newspaper, farmers were now going to be able to use their farms as collateral when obtaining loans, following the landmark development set to change the agricultural sector.

The southern African country’s financial institutions were previously refusing to lend money to farmers, arguing that they were not transferable in the event that the farmers were unable to repay their loans.

But following talks with government, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and the bankers, it was agreed that the 99-year-leases were now bankable.





African in General

Democratic Republic of Congo orders former coloniser Belgium to close consulate and cut flights from Brussels

The Democratic Republic of Congo has ordered Belgium to close a consulate and cut flights by Brussels Airlines in a further deterioration of relations between the European nation and its former Central African colony.

Belgium’s foreign ministry said it had shut a diplomatic office in the south-eastern city of Lubumbashi after being told to do so by Kinshasa. Congo has also decided to close its consulate in the northern Belgian city of Antwerp.

Brussels Airlines, owned by Germany’s Lufthansa, has had its flights to and from Kinshasa cut from seven a four week to four, a foreign ministry spokesman added.

The airline said it had been told by Congolese authorities the reduction was because of “an absence of reciprocity” in international air services between the two countries.


Local firms keen to invest as Zimbabwe opens its doors

There could finally be a sliver of hope for foreign companies in the post-Robert Mugabe era in Zimbabwe, particularly for South African companies, which stuck it out during the country’s darkest of times.

Mugabe often used threats of seizure and the closure of operations to have his way with foreign companies.

In 2012, mining company Impala Platinum was issued with a 14-day ultimatum to comply with Zimbabwe’s 51% indigenisation law or risk losing its mining licence.

David Brown, the then Impala CEO, had to lead a team of executives to Harare from Johannesburg in an effort to stave off the threat facing its subsidiary, Zimplats.

Business Day

Uganda’s EALA MPs divided over Somalia EAC application

Uganda’s representatives to the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA)have expressed divergent views on the proposal by the heads of states to admit Somalia into the community.

One of the issues to be discussed during the Heads of State Summit scheduled for later this month in Kampala is Somalia’s application to join the East African Community.

According to Susan Nakawuki, opening boarders for Somalia is a dangerous move that is likely to allow terrorists to attack the region with a lot of ease.

However, Fred Mukasa Mbidde says that bringing Somalia closer to the region will help improve monitoring and sharing of security strategies to eliminate terrorists from the region.

Zimbabwe legislators call on Mnangagwa to end political unrest

Zimbabwean legislators and civic society organisations are seeking an end to political violence which has characterised the past few weeks as the country moves towards this elections this year.

The legislators want “something done” ahead of the coming elections.

MDC-T acting president and Kuwadzana East MP Nelson Chamisa on Wednesday pleaded with President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the National Assembly to intervene and order a stop to politically-motivated violence.

“I want to alert the House that Parliament needs to do something on the issue of vulnerability of MPs pertaining to violent attacks on them. I have checked with the police and noted that there was an attack on Epworth.