News Briefs 11 October 2019


Broke Swaziland Govt Wants to Borrow Another E1bn to Complete Unnecessary Convention Centre

The Government of Swaziland / eSwatini is to seek another E1.2 billion (US$83 million) in loans to complete the building of a conference centre and hotel to house an African Union summit that will not now take place.

Costs of the building under construction at Ezulwini have already exceeded E1bn and are estimated to be a further E2bn over the next three years.

The International Convention Centre and five-star hotel project known as ICC-FISH was started because Swaziland hoped to house an African Union summit in 2020. But it has not won the contract for this.


Swaziland Union Leader Shot By Police During Strike Put His Hands Up and Pleaded – Don’t Shoot

The trade union leader who was shot in the back with a rubber bullet at close range by police in Swaziland /eSwatini during what was until then a peaceful strike has told how he put his hands up and pleaded at the officer not to shoot.

Dumisani Nkuna, Secretary General of the Manzini Branch of the National Public Service and Allied Workers Union (NAPSAWU), was a marshal at a march in Manzini, the kingdom’s main commercial city, on Wednesday (2 October 2019).

About 8,000 people marched through the city as part of a public servants’ strike for an increase in cost-of-living salary payments.



Zimbabwe economy: Doctors strike, reject government pay rise

Doctors in Zimbabwe are continuing to strike, defying a government order to return to work.

They have rejected a 60-percent pay rise, saying it is not enough to keep up with soaring prices.

But with the economy in free fall, patients needing treatment are also suffering.


Economic chaos is causing a food security and humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe

Since Zimbabwe’s land reform of 2000 – when around 8 million hectares of formerly large-scale commercial farmland was distributed to about 175,000 households – debates about the consequences for food security have raged.

A standard narrative has been that Zimbabwe has turned from “food basket” to “basket case”. This year, following the devastating El Niño drought combined with Cyclone Idai, some 5.5 million people are estimated to be at risk of hunger, with international agencies issuing crisis and emergency alerts.

It is unquestionable that this season was disastrous – only 776,635 tonnes of maize was produced, more than a third below the five-year average. Nevertheless, the story of food insecurity is more complex than the headline figures suggest.

The Conversation

Zimbabwe lunges towards economic despair

In May this year Zimbabwe placed itself under the watchful eye of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The IMF’s so-called Staff-Monitored Programme (SMP) outlined a series of reforms intended to guide the country back to economic stability.

The reforms included fiscal adjustments, privatising state-owned assets and the elimination of central bank funding of the fiscal deficit.

In July it seemed Zimbabwe was on target to meet the IMF targets. But then catastrophe struck – and it was entirely self-created.

The Zimbabwe Reserve Bank flooded the economy with billions of dollars in support of the agricultural sector. In the space of a year, money supply exploded by 86%.


Democratic Republic of Congo

Support ‘winds of change’ in DR Congo to consolidate positive developments, urges UN mission chief

Recent positive trends could help transform the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) into a stable country, the head of the UN operation there told the Security Council on Wednesday.

Leila Zerrougui listed some of these developments which have occurred since the installation of new President Félix Tshisekedi this past January.

“Regional diplomatic initiatives have been rolled out, a coalition government has been put in place with an ambitious programme of action which is intended to stabilize the country, improve governance of the country and boost the level of economic development of the DRC,” she said, speaking via videoconference from the United Kingdom.

“It is now vital that the entire DRC political class supports these winds of change and work hard to consolidate these positive developments.”

UN News

Ebola virus now squeezed into ‘corner’ of DRC

Efforts to halt an Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo have made “significant progress”, with the virus now contained to a far smaller and mainly rural area, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Thursday.

“We have put the virus in the corner,” Michael Ryan, the executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, told reporters in Geneva.

“I believe we have really squeezed the virus into a much smaller geographical area,” he said.

Ebola is now essentially only transmitting within an area of eastern DRC between Mambasa, Komanda, Mandima and Beni, he said.



Sudan’s Ruling Council Appoints 1st Woman Chief Justice in Africa

Sudan’s ruling council has appointed the country’s first woman chief justice. The appointment is seen as another step forward for female representation in the new transitional government.

The Sovereign Council has officially confirmed the pick of Neemat Abdullah as chief justice of the country’s judiciary, a first in Sudan and the entire Arab world.

Many in Sudan see the appointment as a major step forward for Sudanese women.

Researcher and politican Nahid Jabrallah, the founder of the Sima center for children, said the appointment of Judge Neemat Abdullah is a victory for Sudanese women and very symbolic of Sudanese women’s participation in the 30-year fight [against Bashir].  It also shows a commitment to women and women’s issues.

Voice of America

Sudan Opposition Leader Says Reform a Slow Process

Months of peaceful protests helped force Sudan’s autocratic President Omar al-Bashir out of office in April after 30 years.

The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), a coalition of labor unions, led the way in organizing the protests. Now, the group and other opposition organizations are working with the military to create a new democratic government.

It is slow work, says Mohammed Nagi al-Assam, the SPA spokesperson who has been at the forefront of the protest movement.

The country has a new Cabinet and six civilians sit with five military officers on the Sovereign Council, the country’s new executive body. There is a commitment to hold elections and have a fully civilian government in three years.

Voice of America

South Sudan

US warns of sanctions if S.Sudan rivals fail at unity government

The United States will consider sanctions on leaders in South Sudan if they fail to form a unity government for the troubled young nation by their self-imposed deadline of November 12, a US official said Thursday.

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar agreed in a rare meeting last month to work together and help bring an end to unrest that has killed some 380,000 people and left more than six million people in dire need of food aid.

Bryan Hunt, the State Department’s office director for Sudan and South Sudan, warned that Western powers would not accept another delay in the deadline, which was already extended by six months.

The East African

South Sudan/AU: Set Meeting on War Crimes Court

South Sudan’s government and the African Union should urgently meet to clarify plans to set up a proposed hybrid court for wartime atrocities, Human Rights Watch said in a letter to both the government and the AU that was published today.

The Hybrid Court for South Sudan would bring together judges and prosecutors from South Sudan and across Africa as the country’s domestic court system is not prepared to handle such sensitive, complex cases.

“South Sudan’s parties have committed to justice for the victims of war crimes and asked the AU to take the lead on creating a hybrid court,” said Carine Kaneza Nantulya, Africa advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “But there is no communication between the key players and the process is stalled. The AU and South Sudanese representatives should urgently convene a meeting to develop a plan to establish the court.”

Human Rights Watch

Central African Republic

The Central African Republic faces a Syria-sized crisis

According to the United Nations, the number of people in the Central African Republic (CAR) who rely on aid to survive rose to 2.9 million in 2019 from 2.5 million the previous year.

That’s around two-thirds of the country’s population. But aid agencies on the ground say they have received less than half of what they need to help those most at risk.

This African crisis is on a par with those in Yemen and Syria but gets much less attention than either — perhaps because CAR, a landlocked country of abject poverty and endemic violence, has never seemed as geopolitically significant as those other cases.

After a visit to CAR this month, the UN’s Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Ursula Mueller said the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate. “Spikes of violence in areas of the country that were not previously affected by the conflict are creating new displacement and humanitarian needs,” she said.


Can the Central African Republic’s peace deal be saved?

Eight months after the 6 February peace deal was concluded between the Central African Republic (CAR) government and 14 armed groups, several important challenges continue to affect the country’s stability.

The most recent major episode of violence was last month’s conflict between the Mouvement des libérateurs centrafricains pour la justice (MLCJ) and the Front Populaire pour la Renaissance de la Centrafrique in Birao in the country’s north. Both groups had signed the peace agreement and MLCJ’s head, Gilbert Toumou Deya, is now a cabinet member in charge of relations with armed groups, as per the agreement.

Presidential and legislative elections scheduled for December 2020 could lead to further instability, as opposition leaders and parties are already gearing up to face off with incumbent President Faustin-Archange Touadéra.

Daily Maverick


Somalia, Kenya Row Escalates After Alleged Breach of Air Space

Somalia summoned Kenya’s ambassador after a Kenyan-registered plane landed in the port city of Kismayo in the southern state of Jubaland without “official permission,” amid a simmering maritime-border dispute between the neighbors.

Jubaland won some political autonomy in 2013 and is among Somalia states jostling for more autonomy and control over oil, gas and other resources. Somalia’s central government is wary of Jubaland’s president, Mohamed Islam Madobe, who leads a powerful militia that fought alongside Kenyan troops against the al-Shabaab group to recapture Kismayo’s port in 2012.

Kenya invaded Somalia in 2011 after a spate of kidnappings by the Islamist militants in its territory, but later joined a multi-national African Union peacekeeping force.


Somalia auditor general slams government finances

The Somali government is keeping some donor funds offshore and none of the ministries have completed last year’s accounts, the auditor general said in a report published on Wednesday.

The critical audit comes as World Bank considers forgiving Somalia’s debt burden of $4.6 billion to help the government win greater access to international financing to tackle nearly three decades of lawlessness and violence.

The report said $18 million from the European Union, Saudi Arabia and the United Nations did not pass through the treasury’s account at the central bank. Some of the money was kept in offshore accounts with weaker controls.


Western Sahara

MINURSO calls for the creation of joint military mechanism between Morocco and the Polisario

In a new report on the situation in Western Sahara, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stressed that a solution to the conflict is «possible». Despite his optimism, he still referred to the lack of trust on all sides.

Guterres notes, however, that overall the situation on the ground remains relatively calm. The ceasefire violations recorded in his April report has been largely resolved. Also, the peacekeeping mission deployed in the Sahara did not record any violations on both sides of the sand wall.

The report, consulted by Yabiladi, features an unprecedented proposal. Indeed, MINURSO has called for the creation of a joint military mechanism between the two parties, which would be meeting once a month and monitoring incursions observed on both sides. According to the same report, both parties welcomed the initiative but without agreeing on the characteristics of it.


Morocco eyes rapprochement with pro-Polisario southern Africa countries

During the last couple of months, Morocco reinforced its attempts to maintain diplomatic ties with Latin American and African countries. Rabat emerged victorious, Friday, when the Kingdom of Lesotho, a Southern Africa country, announced that its suspended support for the Polisario Front.

In a statement sent to the Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the landlocked kingdom encircled by South Africa announced that it supports the UN-led political process and prefers to observe positive neutrality when it comes to regional and international meetings related to the Western Sahara question.

Weeks before adopting said position, Lesotho’s Prime Minister called, on September 27, for an end to the occupation and the declaration of independence for Western Sahara.


Other News

Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia’s prime minister, wins 2019 Nobel peace prize

The prime minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed, has won the 2019 Nobel peace prize, the Norwegian Nobel committee has announced.

Berit Reiss-Andersen, the committee’s chair, said the award recognised Abiy’s “efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation, and in particular his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighbouring Eritrea”.

Elected in April last year, one of Abiy’s biggest victories was the peace deal, signed in July last year, which ended a nearly 20-year military stalemate with Eritrea following their 1998-2000 border war.

The Guardian

Ambassador Jerry Matjila Raises Concern Over Armed Groups, Ebola in DRC

As the United Nations (UN) readies itself to review the deployment of its peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), South Africa’s permanent representative ambassador Jerry Matjila said he was encouraged by the improving political climate but he remained concerned by armed groups in the east as well as the Ebola pandemic.

Matjila addressed the UN Security Council following an update by the special UN initiative in that country Monusco on Friday.

He welcomed the launch of the African Union (AU) mission against Ebola, which he said illustrated the willingness of African countries to work together in addressing this health concern but made the case for continued global support.


Homosexuality to be punishable by death in Uganda

Uganda has announced its plans on Thursday for a Bill to be passed that will impose the death penalty on homosexuals, Reuters reported.

The “Kill the Gays” Bill was invalidated five years ago on a technicality which included the death penalty.

In February 2014, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill that would increase the penalty for same-sex relations from seven years to life.

But it was annulled by courts in August 2014, News24 previously reported. Activists hailed it as a victory for the country.