News Briefs 12 April 2019

Democratic Republic of Congo

DR Congo leader hails a new ‘balance’ in turbulent nation

The new president of the Democratic Republic of Congo asked for US assistance to help lift his vast country out of a decades-long crisis during a visit to Washington on Thursday.

Tshisekedi, who took office in January in the vast country’s first peaceful transition of power, talked of the new “balance” his election had brought to a nation “on the verge of collapse” under his predecessor Joseph Kabila.

“That’s why I’m here: to ask the Democratic Republic of Congo’s traditional partner, the United States, to help us maintain this fragile balance,” he told a conference organized by the Council on Foreign Relations.

Tshisekedi vowed to focus on “corruption, mismanagement, bad governance” and arbitrary arrests that had been the hallmark of the DRC’s “dictatorial system.”


WHO Experts to Decide Whether Congo Ebola Outbreak Is International Emergency

The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Wednesday said it had reconvened an expert panel to consider whether an outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo constitutes a public health emergency of international concern.

The panel, which first met on this issue in October 2018, will also give updated recommendations on how global health officials should manage the outbreak, the WHO said in a statement from its Geneva headquarters.

At least 740 people have died among the more than 1,100 infected in this epidemic, which began in August 2018.

Declaring the outbreak, a “public health emergency of international concern” (PHEIC) would ramp up the international response with a formal alert that puts governments on notice and helps to mobilise resources and research.



Alarm over human displacements in Somalia

Norwegian Refugee Council has affirmed that over 137,000 Somali citizens have been forced to flee their homes during the first quarters of 2019.

The organization says the number of vulnerable people in Somalia is on the rise. NRC claimed that the rise human displacements are majorly caused by drought and clan conflicts.

In March alone, 51,000 people are known to have become displaced with the total number of people internally displaced in the country reaching more than 2.6 million.

Somali Affairs

US conducts airstrike in Somalia as its prime minister visits Washington

The US military conducted an airstrike in Somalia Tuesday that killed one Al-Shabaab militant, according to US Africa Command, which oversees military operations on the continent.

The strike occurred in the vicinity of Jilib, Middle Juba Region, an area that has in the past been a hotbed of Al-Shabaab activity.

News of the strike comes on the same day that Somalia’s Prime Minister Hassan Khayre met with President Donald Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton at the White House on Wednesday.


Central African Republic

Central African Republic president hopeful accord will stick

The president of the Central African Republic voiced optimism Tuesday that the latest peace accord would succeed in the conflict-torn country after he moved to form an inclusive government.

On a visit to Washington, President Faustin-Archange Touadera said that the agreement — the eighth peace attempt in six years — addressed the crucial issues of power-sharing and accounting for human rights abuses.

“It’s not inevitable, but we think that this could be the final agreement if we all work resolutely in putting it into place,” he said at the US Institute of Peace.

“This agreement has something more than the other ones as all the stakeholders had time to discuss all its key points,” he said.

The Citizen

Medical charity: Nurse killed in Central African Republic

Doctors Without Borders says one of its health workers has been killed by an armed group in Central African Republic.

The organization says assistant nurse Gaulbert Mokafe was killed on Thursday between Batangafo and Bouca while traveling by motorcycle to visit family.

The medical charity demands that armed groups control their members and ensure the protection of civilians and health workers. Doctors Without Borders says it has more than 200 international staff and more than 2,000 local staff working in the country.

The government and 14 rebel groups signed a fragile peace agreement in February that many hoped would be a turning point in the nation that has seen deadly communal violence since 2013.

Fox News


Sudan military coup topples ruler after protests

Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir has been ousted and arrested by the military after nearly 30 years in power. Speaking on state TV, defence minister Awad Ibn Ouf said the army would oversee a two-year transitional period followed by elections.

He also said a three-month state of emergency was being put in place.

Protesters, however, have vowed to stay on the streets despite an overnight curfew being imposed by the military. Demonstrations against Mr Bashir, who has governed Sudan since 1989, have been taking place for several months.

The protesters are now demanding a civilian council to lead the transition rather than a military one, correspondents say.


Sudanese opposition rejects Ibn-Ouf’s military coup

Sudan’s opposition forces refused to deal with the military coup led by the defence minister on Thursday and urged the Sudanese to continue to sit-in the streets.

Tens of thousands of Sudanese were clearly frustrated when Awad bin Auf appeared on the TV screens as one of the perpetrators of the coup that toppled al-Bashir.

The streets of the Sudanese capital and a number of states were filled with huge waves of people after the announcement of the army’s statement as thousands marched in the streets to express their joy of the expected change.

But the protesters shouted everywhere, expressing their rejection of Ibn Ouf and considered the move as a hoax saying that the same faces they opposed to, are in the security committee headed by Ibn Ouf includes the security apparatus, the Rapid Support Forces and the police.

Sudan Tribune

South Sudan

Sudan’s upheaval brings fears for South Sudan’s peace deal

The military overthrow of Sudan’s long-time president quickly has raised concerns about whether the upheaval will destabilize neighbouring South Sudan’s fragile efforts at peace after five years of civil war.

Amid the laughter and applause on the streets of South Sudan’s capital, Juba, moments after the ouster on Thursday, there was worry about what will happen now that Omar al-Bashir, who helped broker a South Sudan peace deal last year, is gone.

“It is too early to celebrate,” Jacob Chol, senior political analyst and professor at the University of Juba, told The Associated Press. Al-Bashir’s fall is likely to have a negative impact as he pushed South Sudan’s warring parties to implement the peace agreement and he’s no longer “on the throne,” he said.


Pope Francis, in Plea for South Sudan Peace, Stuns Leaders by Kissing Their Shoes

Pope Francis on Thursday got on his hands and knees before the leaders of South Sudan’s government and its opposition, kissing their shoes and imploring the two men to maintain the tenuous peace that exists between them.

“I’m asking you with my heart,” the pope said to the president, Salva Kiir, and the opposition leader, Riek Machar, clutching his hands in front of his chest. “Stay in peace.”

The dramatic gesture happened during a spiritual retreat by the two men at the Vatican and came only hours after the military in neighbouring Sudan ousted its long-time leader, President Omar al-Bashir, after 30 years of authoritarian rule.

New York Times

Western Sahara

U.N. hosting Western Sahara talks in Switzerland this week

The U.N. envoy for the contested Western Sahara will convene talks in Switzerland later this week, seeking compromise after a first round in December that marked a return to the negotiating table for the first time in six years, a statement said.

United Nations efforts have repeatedly failed to broker a settlement over the desert territory, contested between Morocco and the Algerian-backed Polisario since Spain left in 1974.

U.N. envoy Horst Koehler said after talks in December that all sides had agreed to meet again in early 2019.

He has invited delegations from Morocco, the Frente Polisario, Algeria and Mauritania to the meeting in Switzerland set for March 21-22, a U.N. statement said.


Kohler, UNSC Hope Parties Will Engage Constructively

The United Nations Security Council expressed hope that the parties involved in the Western Sahara conflict will remain engaged in constructively in the UN-led political process to end the conflict.

The 15 members of the Security Council met in a closed meeting on Wednesday which the UN Secretary-General’s personal envoy for Western Sahara, Horst Kohler, attended.

During the meeting, the members of the Security Council discussed the newly released report of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on the situation in Western Sahara.

AFP quoted a diplomat following the Security Council meeting, who said that the participants said that the parties “must continue the discussions in a constructive manner.

Morocco World News


The Nation in Economic Freefall with Human Rights Failings, Report Shows

The gap between rich and poor is widening and the kingdom faces ‘an unprecedented economic crisis’: these were two of the main concerns of Finance Minister Neal Rijkenberg in his national budget for Swaziland where the ‘economic outlook remains subdued’. He went on to threaten to cut public service jobs if workers did not fall into line and accept his programme to reduce debts.

Meanwhile, the Auditor General Timothy Matsebula in his annual report stated the finances of the Government were in such a mess that billions of emalangeni could not be accounted for.

Public service across Swaziland are in freefall with hospitals and clinics short of vital drugs. Schools are unable to feed vulnerable children. All because the government has not paid suppliers.


Swaziland Auditor General Fears Fraud as Govt Pensions Paid to the Deceased

It looks as if the way elderly grants are distributed by the government in Swaziland / eSwatini is leading to theft and fraud, the kingdom’s Auditor General reported.

The Deputy Prime Minister’s Office is responsible for the grants (pensions). People aged 60 and over are entitled to E400 (US$30) per month. About 70,000 people are thought to receive the grants which often are the only income a family has.

Timothy Matsebula, the Auditor General, in his report for the year ending March 2018 said E1.7 million was unaccounted for. He said if a person failed to collect the quarterly grant twice in a row, social workers had to investigate to see if that person was still alive. These checks were not being carried out.



Zimbabwe GDP Growth Below Target At 4% In 2018 – Treasury

Zimbabwe’s economy grew by 4% last year, below an initial target of 4.5%, Treasury said on Thursday, as the country struggles with a severe shortage of dollars and surging inflation.

Treasury said in its fourth-quarter report ending December that the government’s foreign and domestic debt stood at $17.8 billion, with 46% of that amount owed to foreign lenders.


Zimbabwe Reaches Agreement with IMF On Economic Reform Programme

Zimbabwe has reached an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a programme of economic policies and structural reforms that could pave the way to the crisis-hit country re-engaging with international financial institutions.

Suffering from decades of decline and hyperinflation, Zimbabwe has not been able to borrow from international lenders since 1999, when it started defaulting on its debt. It has arrears of around $2.2 billion with the World Bank, the African Development Bank and European Investment Bank.

“Zimbabwe is facing deep macroeconomic imbalances, with large fiscal deficits and significant distortions in foreign exchange and other markets, which severely hamper the functioning of the economy,” Gene Leon, leader of the IMF staff team, said in a statement.


Africa in General

Suspected Islamic extremists abduct 2 Cuban doctors in Kenya ambush

Suspected Islamist militants abducted two Cuban doctors in an ambush that killed a police bodyguard in northern Kenya near the Somali border, officials said Friday.

It was the second abduction of a foreigner in five months likely carried out by the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab extremist group, which is based in Somalia.

The gunmen may have taken the doctors into Somalia, police spokesman Charlse Owino said. He said the doctors’ driver had been detained to help with investigations.

The doctors were ambushed as they headed to work, said David Ohito, communications director for the Mandera county government.


Algeria protests keep up pressure on regime

Algerian protesters gathered for the first Friday protests since the announcement of presidential elections to succeed ousted leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika fearing a ploy by the ruling system to stay in power.

Social media, the source of mass protests which led to the end of Bouteflika’s two-decade rule, have echoed with calls for an eighth week of demonstrations, this time under the slogan of “They will all leave”.

“On Friday, we’ll show them what it means when we cry out, ‘Go away!'” said Walid, 22, near the principal protest site outside the landmark main post office in central Algiers.

Presidential elections are to be held on July 4, interim leader Abdelkader Bensalah’s office announced on Wednesday, just hours after he pledged “transparent” polls.


Alaa Salah: The woman at the forefront of the Sudan’s liberation

Alaa Salah, otherwise dubbed ‘the woman in white’ has become the icon of the Sudanese revolution after a photo of her atop a car roof addressing thousands of protesters in a mass sit-in went viral this week. The 22-year-old engineering and architecture student was captured in a traditional white thobe wearing gold moon earrings, with her finger raised to the sky – an image which has inspired the Sudanese nation and many around the world.

Salah has chanted ‘Thawra,’ meaning ‘revolution,’ and sang revolutionary songs this week outside the feared Sudanese military and intelligence headquarters, and even outside the Presidential compound “Women have a voice…it is our revolution,” Salah told them.

The numerous female protesters who have dominated the rolling protests over the past 16 weeks have been called Kandaka – a reference to the Nubian Queens of ancient Sudan who fought with great courage for their rights and their country.


Thousands defy military curfew in Sudan as they demand civilian government

Thousands of Sudanese demonstrators camped outside the defence ministry in Khartoum to push for a civilian government, defying a curfew and calling for mass prayers after the military overthrew Omar al-Bashir after 30 years of autocratic rule.

Demonstrators who have been holding almost daily anti-Bashir protests rejected the decision to set up a transitional military council to run the country for two years and vowed to continue protests until a civilian government is established.

Activists called for mass Friday prayers outside the defence ministry compound, a focal point for protests.