News Briefs 11 May 2018

Democratic Republic of Congo

Ebola outbreak declared in Democratic Republic of Congo

The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo declared an outbreak of Ebola hemorrhagic fever, a rare and deadly disease, on Tuesday, the World Health Organization reported. The declaration came after laboratory results confirmed two cases of the disease in the province of Bikoro in the northwestern part of the country.

Ebola virus disease, which most commonly affects people and nonhuman primates (monkeys, gorillas and chimpanzees), is caused by one of five Ebola viruses. The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission. The average case fatality rate is around 50%.

A government statement released Tuesday states that the Ministry of Health has “taken all necessary measures to respond promptly and effectively to this new epidemic of Ebola in the DRC’s national territory”.


UN chief urges DRC to lift ban on demonstrations

The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Monday urged the Democratic Republic of Congo’s government to lift a ban on demonstrations that threatens to scupper chances for credible elections.

The December 23 elections in the vast resource-rich country are to pave the way to a historic transfer of power that would end President Joseph Kabila’s rule.

Guterres told the Security Council in a report that “persistent divergences” over the vote and “the lack of political space remain a threat to the holding of credible and inclusive elections.”

“Lifting the ban on public demonstrations would greatly contribute to the opening of political space” and allow the Congolese to “freely exercise their political and civil rights,” said the report sent to the council this month.



11 killed in Somalia market explosion: security official

At least 11 people were killed in an explosion in a busy market in a small Somali city north of Mogadishu, a security official and witnesses said.

“Eleven people were confirmed dead and more than 10 others were wounded in the blast, which we are still investigating. Some of the victims have serious wounds and they were admitted to hospital,” Mohamed Abdikarim, a regional security official, told AFP.

Sources contacted by AFP did not yet know whether the blast was caused by a suicide bomber or an explosive device.

The blast occurred at the marketplace in Wanlaweyn district about 70 kilometres north of the Somali capital where Khat (narcotic leaves) is sold.


Parliament Inaugurates New Speaker

The newly elected Lower House of Somali parliament, Mohamed Mursal Sheikh Abdirahman has been inaugurated on Thursday following his election on 30th April.

Mursal who was elected last month has replaced the former speaker of federal parliament, Mohamed Osman Jawari who resigned after MPs filed a no-confidence motion against him.

The inauguration ceremony was held in Mogadishu under tight security.

Several cabinet Ministers, lawmakers, and high-ranking Somali government officials have attended the inauguration event.


Central African Republic

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein [official website] on Thursday called for a reduction in violence [press release] in the Central African Republic (CAR), which has seen an increase along religious lines in recent days.

Violence started on May 1 when a group known as Force attacked a church, killing 22 and wounding 185 after the government tried to arrest one of their leaders. Christian groups then responded by killing three Muslim individuals with further attacks from both sides continuing afterwards.

Zeid called on the government of the CAR as well as all relevant national and international actors to help stop the growing violence in the region. Zeid stated that “with hate speech and incitement to violence so prevalent in media and social media, I fear that spontaneous eruptions of violence like that of May 1 could become more widespread and difficult to contain.”

Pope prays for peace in Central African Republic

Pope Francis has offered a prayer in St Peter’s Square for an end to violence in the deeply impoverished Central African Republic, which he visited 2½ years ago.

Francis during his traditional Sunday blessing recalled the serious violence in recent days that left many, including a priest, dead. He called for an end to vendettas “to construct peace together.”

At least 19 people were killed and 98 wounded in the renewed sectarian violence in the Central African Republic’s capital of Bangui, with targets including a church, a mosque and health facilities. The country has faced deadly interreligious and intercommunal fighting since 2013, with thousands of people killed and hundreds of thousands displaced.



Sudan’s al-Bashir pardons 5 death-sentenced rebels

Sudan’s President Omer al-Bashir Thursday pardoned five members of the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) who had been sentenced to death by military courts.

The presidential decree includes Ibrahim Abdel-Rahman Saffi al-Nur, Yahia Abbaker Musa al-Nur, Ibrahim Ali al-Rashid Abdel-Gadir, Mohamed Ibrahim al-Doma and Azrag Daldoom Adam Haroun.

Except for Yahia Abbaker Musa al-Nur who was arrested with Ibrahim al-Maz in West Darfur state in January 2011, all the others took part in the attack on the Sudanese capital in May 2008.

The decision to drop the death penalty has been taken in response to an appeal by the national dialogue parties and to promote the national reconciliation atmosphere, reads the decree.

Sudan Tribune

FM Undersecretary Meets Deputy Director of Office of U.S. Envoy to Khartoum and Juba

The Foreign Ministry Undersecretary, Ambassador, Abdul Ghani Al-Naeim met, Thursday, at his office, the Deputy Director of the Office of the US Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, Andrew Bernet accompanied by the US Charge de Affaires in Khartoum.

The meeting discussed spheres of joint cooperation between Sudan and the US in the previous Five Tracks and the ongoing work in the context of the preparations for the coming phase of the constructive engagement.

The US official has commended Sudan’s cooperation concerning the Second Phase, specially, the roundtable dialogue, the Korean File, the interreligious dialogue and Sudan’s positive efforts to restore stability in the State of South Sudan.


South Sudan

South Sudan accuses US of blocking path to country’s peace

South Sudan’s government on Wednesday lashed out at the United States after the Trump administration threatened to cut off hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid amid the country’s grinding civil war, calling the US “a real obstacle” toward achieving peace.

The statement from President Salva Kiir’s office also accused the Trump administration of “naked direct interference” in South Sudan’s affairs ahead of peace talks that will resume on May 17 in neighbouring Ethiopia, mediated by a regional bloc.

The US is the top aid donor to South Sudan, but in a sharply worded statement on Tuesday it said it would review its assistance if the East African nation’s conflict grinds on. The US says it has given over $3.2bn in humanitarian assistance since the conflict broke out in December 2013.


Kiir Fires Bank Governors

South Sudan President Salva Kiir has fired the governor and first deputy governor of the Bank of South Sudan without explanation. Kiir issued two decrees Wednesday night removing Governor Othom Rago Ajak and Deputy Governor Dier Tong Ngor from their posts.

A South Sudanese economic analyst says the two bank governors were likely removed because of their failure to improve the nation’s deteriorating economy. Sources at the Bank of South Sudan confirmed to VOA’s South Sudan in Focus radio program there has been a changing of the guard at the bank.

President Kiir’s Press Secretary, Ateny Wek Ateny, was less certain.

“I have not seen a decree yet and I cannot talk about speculation. If there is any decree that the president issued in regards to the relieving of the governor of the central bank it should be read at the SSBC,” (South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation) Ateny told VOA.


Western Sahara

Morocco cuts diplomatic ties with Iran over Western Sahara feud

Morocco has announced it will cut diplomatic ties with Iran over Tehran’s support for the Polisario Front, a Western Saharan independence movement.

Morocco’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday it will close its embassy in Tehran and expel the Iranian ambassador in Rabat over Iran’s support for Polisario.

Rabat accuses Tehran and Lebanese proxy Hezbollah of training and arming Polisario Front fighters.

Morocco’s foreign affairs minister, Nasser Bourita, told Al Jazeera that Rabat has evidence that incriminates the Iranian government, which assisted Hezbollah in providing financial as well as logistical support to Polisario through its embassy in Algiers.


Algeria makes “exception” in supporting refugees

“Algeria is an exception in supporting refugees whether they are from Western Sahara or other Arab and African countries (…). The international community wasn’t aware of the importance of such a sacrifice of the Algerians only after the recent outbreak of several conflicts causing a real refugee crisis,” said Bouhabini in the ceremony of donation of ten million dinars by the ambassador of China to Algiers to the Sahrawi refugees in the camps of Tindouf.

Algeria “makes the exception in dealing with the needs of refugees at a time when a number of countries were overwhelmed by the crisis of refugees,” he added.

Bouhabini underlined that “the international community wasn’t aware of Algeria’s sacrifices in terms of humanitarian aid and assistance to the Sahrawi refugees during more than 40 years only after the outbreak of recent conflicts which led to a crisis of refugees in several European countries.”

Algeria Press Service


Swazi Govt ‘Runs Out of Cash’

The Swazi Government has run out of cash and is living hand-to-mouth. It has to wait for the Swaziland Revenue Authority to put tax collections into its account each Monday before it can pay bills.

The revelation was made by the Sunday Observer (6 May 2018), one of the newspapers in Swaziland in effect owned by the kingdom’s absolute monarch King Mswati III.

In March, Martin Dlamini, the Finance Minister announced the Government owed its suppliers E3.1 billion.


Swazi Govt Hides from the Public

People in Swaziland cannot access critical information from government and there is no political will in the kingdom for this to change, a report on media freedom concluded.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) said a law to allow access to information had been drafted in 2007 but had been ‘left to gather dust on the shelves’.

Swaziland is ruled by King Mswati III as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Political parties are banned from taking part in elections and the King chooses the Prime Minister and government ministers. There are few opportunities in Swaziland for people to engage in free and open debate.



Big and bold claims as Zimbabwe prepares for crucial election

Big promises and bizarre allegations bordering on the near impossible are inherent as political parties try to out-smart each other as Zimbabwe heads towards the polls in about three months’ time.

In March‚ having taken over the reigns of power after the death of former MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai‚ the MDC Alliance’s presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa had big shoes to fill.

Not a Tsvangirai equivalent in terms of charisma but with his own attributes‚ Chamisa at a rally in Bindura declared that he would introduce high speed bullet trains when voted into power.

“We want to have the best infrastructure in the next two to three years…we want to bring bullet trains that travel at 600km/hour from Bulawayo to Harare in 30-35 minutes‚” he said as the crowd cheered.


Chamisa to meet Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn; warns UK that Zimbabwe needs democracy not managed stability

MDC Alliance presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa has warned the British government that overlooking crucial democratic reforms in favour of managing political stability in Zimbabwe could lead to post-election instability.

Speaking at Chatham House in London on Tuesday, Chamisa expressed concern over what he said was the inclination of the British government in Zimbabwe “to align with one political party against another.”

“We have seen that there has been a bit of a shift on the part of the British government in terms of focusing more on political stability and trade and commerce at the expense of democracy. But that is a false narrative, you can never have stability without democracy,” he said.

New Zimbabwe




Africa in General

Nigerian diplomat found dead in Sudan capital

A Nigerian diplomat has been found dead at his home in Khartoum, Nigeria’s government and Sudanese police said Thursday, with the latter investigating what it called a “criminal act”.

“An employee in the consular section of the Nigerian embassy was found dead at his home in Khartoum,” Sudanese police said in a statement.

“Preliminary investigation shows that the death was due to a criminal act and not politically motivated,” the statement added.

The Nigerian foreign ministry confirmed the death of the diplomat and described him as an “immigration attaché”.



US, Somali raid on al-Shabaab seizes 3 commanders: Officials

Somali intelligence officials say US and Somali commandos have seized three men thought to be commanders with the al-Shabaab extremist group during a deadly raid in a village in Lower Shabelle region.

Five people thought to be banana farmers were killed in the raid late on Wednesday and several others were captured, says Moalim Ahmed Nur, a traditional elder in the village.

A Somali intelligence official says the forces targeted a key hideout and coordination centre for the Somalia-based al-Shabaab. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.


Kenyatta urged not to sign cybercrime bill into law

The Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ) has called on Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta not to sign into law a cybercrimes bill that was recently passed by the National Assembly because it will stifle press freedom.

On April 26, 2018, the National Assembly approved the Computer and Cybercrimes Bill, 2017, which among other provisions, criminalises the publication of false news and stipulates hefty fines and lengthy prison terms for those found guilty of the offense.

In a statement on Thursday, CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Angela Quintal based in New York said: “Kenyan legislators have passed a wide-ranging bill that will criminalise free speech, with journalists and bloggers likely to be among the first victims if it is signed into law.


Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia fail to agree on Nile dispute

Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia have failed again to make progress on their Nile dispute as Ethiopia works to complete a massive upstream dam, an Egyptian official said on Tuesday.

Egypt fears the Renaissance Dam will cut into its share of the river, which provides virtually all the freshwater for the arid country of 100 million people. Ethiopia, which has the same sized population, says the dam is essential for its economic development.

Technical talks among irrigation ministers of the three countries in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, last week ended with no deal, Hossam el-Emam, a spokesperson for Egypt’s Irrigation Ministry, told The Associated Press.