News Briefs 13 January 2023:

Southern Africa Focus


Address Concerns Raised By Stakeholders, ZEC Told

Political parties and analysts have raised concerns over the report citing that it had an influence on boundaries of constituencies which are tilted in favour of the ruling Zanu PF party.

In a statement, ERC said the failure to adequately address the issues raised may result in the contestation of the report thereby affecting the 2023 general elections.

“While the report has generally resulted in a more equitable distribution of voters across the 210 constituencies in Zimbabwe, the ERC notes concerns raised by stakeholders on the report. Main concerns being the calculation of the allowable ‘variance’ for the number of registered voters per constituency and ward. The alleged erroneous methodology used to calculate the variance potentially discredits the delimitation process.

“The ERC urges the Commission to address the concerns raised by stakeholders. The failure to adequately address the issues raised may result in the final delimitation report being contested and thus affecting its use for the 2023 Harmonised Elections. A return to the pre-existing 2007/2008 boundaries goes against the principles of the equality of the vote as the boundaries of the current constituencies and wards are grossly unequal. Inclusivity and transparency in addressing the concerns raised will ensure buy-in of all relevant stakeholders.

AllAfrica 11 January 2023

New Zimbabwe law threatens health workers with jail over strikes

Zimbabwe has brought in a law banning health workers such as nurses and doctors from prolonged strikes, imposing punishments of up to six months in jail for defiant workers or union leaders, state-run media and a government spokesman said.

The provision, signed into law by President Emmerson Mnangagwa last week but made public on Wednesday, stipulates that health workers can strike for up to three days because they are considered an essential service.

Health professionals should continue providing emergency services during a strike, tweeted government spokesman Nick Mangwana.

Other countries, including neighbouring South Africa and Zambia, limit strikes by health workers but impose less severe punishments, such as dismissals, work suspensions or docking salaries.

Aljazeera 12 January 2023


Human Rights Watch criticises SA, Eswatini and Zimbabwe governments in latest report

Southern African leaders have come under sharp criticism in the Human Rights Watch (HRW) 2023 report, with claims that they have failed to address the abuse of civilians.

The report, which was released on Thursday, cited the refusal of Eswatini’s King Mswati III to engage in dialogue, South Africa’s failure to protect migrants, Mozambique’s ongoing conflict with insurgents in Cabo Delgado, and Zimbabwe’s lack of meaningful steps to uphold rights.

Last year, Eswatini continued to experience pockets of resistance from pro-democracy activists calling for the king’s removal from southern Africa’s last absolute monarchy.

In 2021, the king was brought to the negotiation table by President Cyril Ramaphosa to agree on a national dialogue.

At the time, Ramaphosa was chairperson of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

In principle, the king agreed. But along the way, he found a way to remove Eswatini from SADC’s agenda.

News24 12 January 2023

Eswatini opposition parties, civil society meet in SA to plot strategy against King Mswati

Civil society and opposition parties in Eswatini met in South Africa last week to discuss and adopt a strategy aimed at achieving the abdication of King Mswati III and turning the monarchy into a democracy.

The Mass Democratic Movement (MDM), under the Swaziland Multi-Stakeholder Forum, adopted the eBundu Declaration at a two-day gathering in Mbombela in Mpumalanga.

Named after the lodge where the meeting was held, the group said the declaration was aimed at making “resolutions on important political issues affecting our country, Swaziland”.

The opposition and civil society in Eswatini still refer to the country as Swaziland.

They view the name change by King Mswati as a dictatorial tendency similar to that of Mobutu Sese Seko, who renamed the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) Zaire in 1971.

They said they were reaffirming their fight to break down the monarchy in Eswatini in the spirit of those that died in 2022 during mass riots in the country.

News24 21 December 2022

Democratic Republic of Congo

DR Congo government blames rebels for Kasindi church bombing

The Democratic Republic of Congo government has blamed Islamic State group-affiliated rebels for a bomb attack at a Pentecostal church in Kasindi, in the east of the country.

Ten people were killed as church-goers attended Sunday worship, officials say.

At least 39 were wounded and the Congolese military described it as a “terrorist act” by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). The ADF is one of the most notorious active rebel groups in eastern Congo.

In a statement, the Congolese government “strongly condemned” the bomb attack, which it says was “visibly perpetrated by ADF terrorists”.

It expressed its “deepest condolences” to the bereaved families who were victims of “this despicable terrorist act”. The UN mission in DR Congo condemned “the cowardly and despicable attack” in Kasindi.

Its comments were echoed by Congolese military spokesman Antony Mualushayi, who said: “It is clear that this is a terrorist act perpetrated by the ADF terrorists who have suffered casualties in several battlefields by the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo”.

BBC News 15 January 2023

Abandoned children of UN peacekeepers in DR Congo face stigma

Chance, 16, is different from the other children in her school in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo due to her fair skin. She is one of dozens of offspring of United Nations peacekeepers, deployed in the troubled region for over 20 years, who often face stigma in their communities.

Chance’s mother, Faida, said she had met a Uruguayan peacekeeper in 2006 while working as a cleaner at a UN base in Kavumu, a settlement in the militia-plagued South Kivu province.

“I was two months pregnant when he left the DRC without saying goodbye,” said Faida, echoing a theme of spurned love common among Congolese women who developed relationships with peacekeepers.

In Kavumu alone, AFP spoke to four women who said they had children with UN peacekeepers.

The East African 13 January 2023

East Africa and the Horn


Eight dead in Somalia bombing claimed by Al-Shabaab: police

Police said Sunday that eight people were killed in a roadside bombing claimed by Al-Shabaab in central Somalia where a major offensive is underway to retake territory from the jihadists.

The attack occurred on Saturday afternoon in Buloburde, a city in Hiran district where government forces and clan militias have been battling the Al-Qaeda-linked insurgents since the middle of last year.

The bomber detonated a car laden with explosives near an administrative building, said Abdullahi Mohamud, a local police commander.

“Five people were killed on the spot, while three others died overnight in hospital,” he said on Sunday, adding the bomber had been planning to destroy the city’s main bridge before redirecting the attack at a civilian area.

Witnesses said the explosion damaged buildings and the city’s main mosque.

“I saw the bodies of five people. Two were elders coming out of the mosque,” said Muhidin Sokorow, who witnessed the blast.

News24 15 January 2023

This is what displaced Somalians want you to know about their humanitarian crisis

At the Daniyle camp on the outskirts of Mogadishu, Somalia, hundreds of people who’ve fled from drought-stricken areas of Somalia are now crammed into a dusty lot. They’ve erected makeshift shelters out of sticks covered with tarps, burlap bags and bits of plastic sheeting. The ground is dry and powdery. Puffs of dust rise around each footfall.

Khadijo Noor Ali arrived at the Daniyle camp two months ago with 7 children in tow. Khadijo says they had to come after the crops in her village in the Lower Shabelle region failed for the fourth season in a row.

“We fled from the drought,” she says. “We had nothing to eat. We ran away from our home.”

Khadijo is single mother. She has five kids from her first marriage, a 4-year-old from her second and a frail 8-year-old relative whose parents died several years ago.

NPR 23 December 2022


Sudan’s army chief warns politicians against interfering with military

Sudan’s army chief, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, on Sunday warned politicians against interference in the military. “We warn politicians against meddling in army’s affairs. They have to work to reform their parties,” al-Burhan said in a televised speech.

“We want the armed forces to be free of the Muslim Brotherhood and leftists, and to be supportive of democratic transition,” he added. The army said a framework agreement signed between the military and political parties last month “is expected to lead the country out of its political crisis.”

The deal pledges a 2-year transition period and the appointment of a civilian prime minister by the political parties that signed the framework agreement. The framework agreement includes five topics, including justice and transitional justice, security and military reform, reviewing the peace deal, the dismantling of the regime of former President Omar al-Bashir and resolving the issue in eastern Sudan.

AA 15 January 2023

After Sudan deals, dissenters say military has silenced them

When one of Sudan’s most powerful paramilitary leaders returned for peace talks in his stronghold of Darfur, not everyone was on board.

The leader of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), Mohamad Hamdan Dagalo or “Hemeti”, reached several reconciliation deals earlier this year, including some with his rivals, to end the intermittent fighting that has blighted the region over the past year. A wider agreement was also signed between the military and political parties in December.

But many Sudanese have protested or criticised the deals, demanding that members of Hemeti’s own Rzeigat Arab tribe and the RSF face punishment for their alleged role in killing hundreds of people in the region in recent years, according to Human Rights Watch. Now, some of those dissenters say they have been detained by the RSF and held without charge.

“I went inside a big intelligence office. The [RSF] had a lot of questions about who I am and why I don’t want peace and stability,” said Faisal, 25, who added that he had spent three days in prison and asked Al Jazeera not to disclose his surname for fear of reprisal.

Aljazeera 28 December 2022

South Sudan

South Sudan to send 750 troops to join regional force in DRC

South Sudan’s military says more than 700 personnel will travel to eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to join a new regional force in trying to calm the latest deadly clashes there.

The spokesman for South Sudan’s military, Major General Lul Ruai Koang, told The Associated Press on Monday that the government is working to provide the 750 troops with needed equipment for the combat mission.

The United Nations earlier this year renewed an arms embargo on South Sudan, citing continuing deadly violence as the country slowly implements a 2018 peace deal that ended a five-year civil war. Thousands of people are still being killed, according to local authorities and the UN.

The South Sudanese military spokesman did not say how soon the troops will be sent to eastern Congo. “The forces are still under training, and they are still at the preparatory level,” he said.

Aljazeera 5 December 2022

South Sudan security forces detain 6 state media employees

South Sudanese authorities should immediately and unconditionally release all journalists detained this week and ensure the press can work freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Friday.

On Tuesday, January 3, agents with the National Security Service detained six journalists with the state-run South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation, according to multiple media reports and three people familiar with the arrests who spoke to CPJ on condition of anonymity, citing fear of retaliation.

The journalists are under investigation for allegedly leaking a video clip widely circulated on social media in December, which appeared to show the country’s president urinating on himself, those reports said. SSBC did not air that footage, an official from the broadcaster told the independent outlet Radio Tamazuj.

“Authorities’ arrests of six employees of the South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation matches a pattern of security personnel resorting to arbitrary detention whenever officials deem coverage unfavorable,” said CPJ’s sub-Saharan Africa representative, Muthoki Mumo. “Authorities should unconditionally release these six SSBC employees and ensure that they can work without further intimidation or threat of arrest.”

Committee To Protect Journalists 6 January 2023

Central African Republic

UN says ‘further efforts’ needed in Central African Republic (CAR)

UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, says that there has been a ‘ relative, but not insignificant’ improvement in the security climate of the Central African Republic, (CAR).

Lacroix said this Wednesday during an official visit to Bangui, the capital of the CAR.

“As far as constitutional developments are concerned, I think what is important to stress is that, first of all, any political development and any political debate on major issues must be done in the most transparent and open way possible. The major issues affecting the country’s future must be the subject of an open debate with free access. It is important that political forces and civil society have a voice.”

The UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations also stressed that there is more work to be done to ensure stability in the troubled central African nation.

“The Central African Republic does not need any more violence, all these acts of violence go against the efforts we must make to strengthen security and improve the climate, including the political climate of this country. As far as the protection of civilians is concerned, first of all, and this is something that was shared by the government representatives that we met recently, there has been a relative, but not insignificant, improvement in the security climate.”

Africa News 12 December 2022

North Africa and the Sahara

Western Sahara

Mandela’s grandson shows solidarity with Palestine and Western Sahara

Zwelivelile Mandela, the grandson of Nelson Mandela chanted ‘Free Free Palestine’ during his speech at the opening of the 2022 African Nations Championship (CHAN) in Algeria on Friday.

The speech, in which he also spoke in support of Western Sahar, was slammed by Morocco as “provocative”.

Middle East Eye 15 January 2023

Western Sahara, a key issue in the US-Moroccan military relationship

The Moroccan Sahara issue has achieved a new success by not circumscribing in the US defence budget for next year any “restrictions” on strengthening the US-Moroccan military partnership, officially retaining it as one of the most important exercises of the “African Lion 2023” project in Morocco, along with other African countries, during the second half of next year. US President Joe Biden signed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023, following a constitutional amendment process in the US Congress with consensus reached between Republicans and Democrats in both houses of Congress.

The budget included in the act amounts to $770 billion, the largest defence spending ever approved in the world. Several areas include equipment procurement, maintenance and training, military assistance to countries, and domestic and foreign military exercises. The defence budget authorisation bill usually comes with demands on countries, this time targeting Morocco, where a pro-Algerian lobby led by James Inhofe, a former Republican senator known for his hostile rants against the North African country, has sought to attribute a series of impediments that restrict ongoing cooperation with Rabat.

Atatlayar 27 December 2022