News Briefs: 13 January 2017

Democratic Republic of Congo

UN peacekeeping chief warns DRC elections could be delayed

The UN peacekeeping chief is warning that elections in Democratic Republic of Congo recently scheduled to be held this year could be pushed back by any delays in establishing voting lists, creating a transitional government, and implementing a December 31 political agreement.

Herve Ladsous also told the UN Security Council on Wednesday that every effort must be made to ensure that all political players, including the Movement for the Liberation of Congo, sign up to the agreement.

It calls for President Joseph Kabila to leave power after the election.


Dozens die in Democratic Republic of Congo as violence spreads amid political instability

Militias in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo killed at least 34 civilians over the weekend, the army and local activists said, the mounting violence stoking concerns over political instability.

Attacks have surged across the country in the past week alongside violent protests over president Joseph Kabila’s failure to step down at the end of his constitutional mandate on Tuesday.

While it is not clear that all the violence is related, analysts fear political instability over Kabila’s tenure is stoking localised conflicts by creating security vacuums.

An ethnic Nande militia killed at least 13 Hutu civilians on Sunday in the eastern town of Nyanzale with guns and machetes in an apparent revenge attack for the deaths of Nande civilians last week, local activist Innocent Gasigwa said.

The Guardian


Somalia speaker election narrows field for presidency

Somalia’s newly-installed lawmakers chose a speaker of parliament on Wednesday in a vote that, according to the country’s clan-based politics, rules out at least one leading presidential candidate.

The re-election of former speaker Mohamed Osman Jawari took place at a heavily-guarded police academy in the capital Mogadishu where he won 141 votes from 259 MPs, enough for a first-round victory, according to Osman Elmi Boqore who chaired the session.

Fears that Somalia’s Shabaab insurgents might target the election meant the area close to the voting was on lock-down with many other roads around the city also closed to civilian vehicles.


UN set to launch humanitarian response plan for Somalia

The UN agencies working in Somalia said Thursday they will next week launch the 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan which outlines the humanitarian situation and priorities for response throughout the country.

A statement from the UN Office for Coordinating of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said the humanitarian situation in Somalia remains among the most complex in the world.

“Worsening drought conditions across the country have left hundreds of thousands of Somalis facing severe food and water shortages,” OCHA said. The Plan will be launched in Mogadishu on Tuesday next week

News Ghana

Central African Republic

Amnesty urges special court for war crimes in CAR

Amnesty International on Wednesday denounced the prevailing impunity in Central African Republic, urging the creation of a Special Criminal Court to try the perpetrators of war crimes committed during the sectarian conflict that started in 2013.

“Individuals suspected of committing war crimes including killing and rape during the conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR) are evading investigation and arrest, and in some cases live side by side with their victims,” Amnesty said in a statement.

Ilaria Allegrozzi, Amnesty International Central Africa Researcher said perpetrators were still free while their victims continued to await justice.

“Thousands of victims of human rights abuses across CAR are still waiting for justice to be served, while individuals who have committed horrific crimes like murder and rape roam free,” she said.


UN condemns deadly ambush that leaves one ‘blue helmet’ dead in Central African Republic

The Security Council has strongly condemned the ambush by unknown attackers late last week against a convoy of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) in Bokayai, in the northwest part of the country, in which one Bangladeshi peacekeeper was killed.

In a press statement, the members of the Security Council expressed their deepest condolences and sympathy to the bereaved family of the peacekeeper killed, the Government of Bangladesh and MINUSCA, and extended their sympathies to the Government of the Central African Republic (CAR).

Strongly condemning all attacks and provocations against MINUSCA by armed groups – a similar deadly ambush on a convoy in the south-eastern part of the country killed two blue helmets from Morocco and wounded two others just a day before the most recent incident – the Security Council underlined that attacks targeting peacekeepers may constitute a war crime and reminded all parties of their obligations under international humanitarian law.

UN News


United States to Lift Sudan Sanctions

After nearly 20 years of hostile relations, the American government plans to reverse its position on Sudan and lift trade sanctions, Obama administration officials said late Thursday.

Sudan is one of the poorest, most isolated and most violent countries in Africa, and for years the United States has imposed punitive measures against it in a largely unsuccessful attempt to get the Sudanese government to stop killing its own people.

On Friday, the Obama administration will announce a new Sudan strategy. For the first time since the 1990s, the nation will be able to trade extensively with the United States, allowing it to buy goods like tractors and spare parts and attract much-needed investment in its collapsing economy.

New York Times

Minister condemns hatred campaign against Sudanese Christians

Sudanese minister of religious affairs Wednesday condemned hatred campaigns by extremists Islamists groups calling to boycott Christmas celebrations and other Christian events, and reiterated his support to religious coexistence in the east African nation.

During the celebrations of Christmas by the Sudanese Catholic and Coptic Churches, radical Islamists plastered the walls of several churches with flyers calling on Muslim to boycott the celebrations and to not pay visits or to congratulate them.

In a statement released Wednesday, the Minister of (religious) Guidance and Waqf Amar Mirghani Hussein said he had received complaints from Christian religious leaders and clerics about flyers plastered on the wall of their churches, calling on Muslims to boycott their festivals.

Sudan Tribune

South Sudan

Riek Machar’s wife: My chairman is offering a solution to end South Sudan war

South Sudan’s rebel leader and former vice-president Riek Machar is offering a solution to end the ongoing civil war in the world’s newest nation, his wife has told IBTimes UK. Angelina Teny made the comment during a conference – held at London’s Chatham House 10 January – on prospects of peace in South Sudan.

The African nation gained independence from Sudan in 2011. However, it descended into war in 2013, when President Salva Kiir, of the Dinka ethnic group, fired his deputy and rebel leader Riek Machar from his cabinet.

International Business Times

South Sudan rejects new peacekeeping troops even as citizens continue to flee

South Sudan has rejected the deployment of a further 4,000 United Nation (UN) peacekeepers, insisting that the situation in the country is improving. The new troops were to have strengthened the 13,500-strong UN team already in place. “The government of South Sudan has the ability to provide security and stability for the country and for its citizens without the deployment of a … protection force,” a spokesperson for the foreign ministry said Wednesday.

Despite this confident proclamation, violence in the country continues. Over a million people have fled South Sudan since the civil war broke out in December 2013, mostly travelling to Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya. A further 1.7 million remain internally displaced, while tens of thousands of others have been killed in the conflict.


Western Sahara

SA backs Western Sahara independence at talks

South African President Jacob Zuma on Friday held talks in Pretoria with the leader of Western Sahara’s Polisario Front independence movement, in a show of support for the territory’s struggle against Morocco.

Brahim Ghali was making his first visit to South Africa — a long-time ally of Western Sahara — since he was elected in July.

Morocco insists the sparsely-populated desert region is an integral part of the kingdom, despite UN resolutions to hold a referendum on self-determination.

“It is unfathomable that Western Sahara… still remains colonised,” Zuma said.

“We remain committed to continue to walk with the people of Western Sahara until you are free to live in your own land and able to determine your own future.”


Threat of war emerges again in Western Sahara

As the situation remained unchanged in the Western Sahara for almost 25 years, the turmoil in the Middle East left the region out of the limelight, but recent tensions in the village of Gueguerat are ringing alarm bells of the possibility of a new war in North Africa.

The Polisario – the Sahrawi independence movement – and Morocco have been fighting over the Western Sahara since 1975, when the former colonial powers withdrew from the region without organising a referendum for the Sahrawi people, leaving the issue unresolved to this day.

A UN resolution was passed in 1991 to organise a plebiscite on the basis of choosing an independent Sahrawi state under the leadership of the Polisario or becoming part of Morocco. This option has been blocked by Rabat, however.

Now, more than half of the Sahrawi population live in the Moroccan-occupied territories of Western Sahara, while those who fled during the 16-year guerrilla war live in refugee camps in the southwestern Algerian region of Tindouf.


President Hery Rajaonarimampianina of Madagascar Meets with Wang Yi


On January 7, 2017, President Hery Rajaonarimampianina of Madagascar met at the Presidential Palace in Antananarivo with Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

Hery Rajaonarimampianina said that Madagascar and China enjoy time-honored friendship, and the two peoples share family-like closeness. For a long time, China has offered a lot of selfless assistance to Madagascar, and many Chinese enterprises have participated in Madagascar’s domestic construction, making positive contributions to pushing forward Madagascar’s development. As a gateway into Africa, Madagascar faces rare development opportunities. The country welcomes and supports the “Belt and Road” initiative proposed by President Xi Jinping as well as hopes that this initiative will enter Africa through Madagascar. The Madagascan side is ready to actively take part in the “Belt and Road” construction and deepen cooperation with China in agriculture, fishery, tourism and other areas under this framework. The country will continue to staunchly uphold the one-China policy and maintain mutual support with China on issues concerning respective core interests. Regarding China as the most trustworthy cooperation partner, Madagascar is confident in the prospects of bilateral relations. Hery Rajaonarimampianina conveyed his sincere greetings to President Xi Jinping.

MFA China

WHO reports suspected plague outbreak in Madagascar

WHO reported that health officials are currently investigating a suspected outbreak of pneumonic and bubonic plague in the Southeastern region of Madagascar that resulted in 62 illnesses and 26 deaths.

The cases, six of which have been confirmed, occurred in two adjacent districts in two neighboring regions —Befotaka district in Atsimo-Atsinanana Region and Iakora district in Ihorombe Region. These are the first cases to be reported in the area since 1950.

Of the reported cases, five were classified as pneumonic plague and the remaining as bubonic plague. Retrospective investigations revealed that the outbreak may have started in mid-August.


Strike at Swazi King’s SADC University

Workers at the university in Swaziland that King Mswati III has chosen to spearhead his University of Transformation started a strike on Monday (9 January 2016) protesting about short-term contracts.

About 100 workers at Limkokwing University of Creative Technology took to the streets and blocked the university’s main gate.

The strike was led by the Swaziland Union of Non-Academic Staff for Higher Institutions (SUNASHI).

Inflation, World Prices Volatility Push Import Bill to E5.3 Billion

Inflation and world food prices volatility has pushed the country’s import bill up 16 per cent, to edge at E5.3 billion in the second quarter of the preceding year.

A yearly comparison shows a significant 25.3 per cent growth in the import bill.

According to the Central Bank of Swaziland (CBS) Recent Economic Development (RED) report for December 2016, released on Wednesday, the bill depicted both increases in volumes of imported goods and the effects of inflationary increases on world prices.

“In the second quarter, fuel import payments shot up by 16.8 per cent quarter-on-quarter after falling by 21.1 per cent in the previous quarter,” said the report.

Swazi Observer



Pressure mounts on Zimbabwe

More Zimbabwean companies could close if the government and the business sector failed to come up with measures to address liquidity challenges, cost structure and delayed payments buffeting the economy, the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) warned on Wednesday.

Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa has projected economic growth of 1.7 percent for Zimbabwe this year, but business leaders and company executives are sceptical of this growth rate. Last year Zimbabwe’s economic growth rate was a paltry 0.6 percent.

Now the CZI, which represents big manufacturers, is engaging the government to come up with solutions.

“Companies could close and we could end up with a dire situation,” the president of the CZI, Busisa Moyo, said yesterday.


Opposition Political Parties Squabble Over 2018 Coalition

That a coalition of opposition political parties and movements is seen as a formidable force to end President Robert Mugabe’s prolonged rule appears to be an open secret for many Zimbabweans pinning their hopes on a political solution to halt socio-economic implosion.

But haggling, jostling and inflated egos have impeded progress towards a pact.

The better part of 2016 saw the idea to form a united front to remove Mugabe from power in the 2018 general elections hanging in the balance as opposition parties spent time focussing on serious contestations and jockeying for power before formal negotiations had even begun.

Mugabe’s controversial rule has been characterised by massive company closures, deteriorating public health facilities, increased poverty levels, high unemployment, among other signs of failure. This has given social movements and political parties the impetus to coalesce and challenge his stay in power.