News Briefs 14 February 2020


Sudan agrees those wanted by ICC should appear before court

Sudan’s transitional authorities and rebel groups from Darfur have agreed that those wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes in the region should appear before the tribunal, officials have said.

The announcement was made on Tuesday in Juba, the capital of neighbouring South Sudan, where the two sides are engaged in peace talks.

“We can only achieve justice if we heal the wounds … and we cannot escape from facing these … without the appearance of those against whom arrest warrants were issued by the International Criminal Court,” Mohamed Hassan al-Taishi, a member of Sudan’s sovereign council, told reporters.


Minister’s apology for Sudan bread shortage

Sudan’s Minister of Industry and Trade Madani Abbas, has apologised to the Sudanese people for the lack of a solution to the bread shortage during the last three weeks. He affirmed the state’s commitment to continue subsidising bread until the end of the transitional period. The government currently subsidises a sack of flour by more than SDG 1,600 ($30*).

At a press conference in Khartoum yesterday, Abbas assured that flour stocks are sufficient until May and that the government is in the process of signing agreements to secure wheat until the end of the year.

He said that the ministry identified the weight of the loaf of bread by 45 grams for one Sudanese Pound*.

Madani said that the ministry is in the process of giving permits to commercial bakeries within 45 days according to strict controls, on condition that commercial bread is distinct in shape and size from the subsidised loaves. He noted that up to half of the subsidised four is ‘leaked’ illegally by smuggling or being sold to restaurants and sweet-makers.


South Sudan

S. Sudan ‘Unity’ Army Not Ready for Peace as Deadline Looms

At a remote and spartan bush barracks in South Sudan, a motley collection of government soldiers and their rebel enemies chanted in unison, raising their mock wooden guns to the sky.

“South Sudan! Victory!” they cried out, as women ululated.

Troops from both sides of the battlefield broke into song and dance, sending up great clouds of dust as feet stomped in the dirt.

Away from the parade ground, however, optimism is in short supply.

This ragged band of war-weary troops is nowhere near ready to protect South Sudan, just days before a critical milestone in its tenuous peace process.

Under an accord meant to end six years of bloodshed, these adversaries were brought together in military camps for retraining to graduate as comrades in a new, unified army.


South Sudan Academic Suspended Over Opinion Piece

South Sudan’s University of Juba has suspended a renowned academic and writer from his teaching position over an opinion article on the issue of states and their boundaries – a controversial issue that has yet to be addressed by South Sudanese leaders before a Unity government can be formed. Taban Lo Liyong’s article, the university said, amounted to “incitement of ethnic hatred” and is “bringing the name of the university…into disrepute.”

This action is emblematic of the government’s repression of basic freedom of expression, where any form of dissent or criticism of government policy is dangerous.

In recent years, South Sudan’s universities have taken steps to limit political freedoms on campus, requiring students and staff to obtain permission from the National Security Service (NSS) for planned activities. Undercover NSS agents are also said to pose as students to keep tabs on critical voices.

Human Rights Watch

Western Sahara

Free Western Sahara Aotearoa protest action at Environment Canterbury

Human rights activists took over the flagpole at Environment Canterbury today, raising the flag of Western Sahara in solidarity with the Saharawi people. This coincided with a visit from a Moroccan delegation at Environment Canterbury, including the President of OCP (which is the Moroccan owned mining company in Western Sahara). Their visit was prompted following the actions of New Zealanders demanding Ravensdown to stop importing blood phosphate from Western Sahara, which is being illegally and brutally occupied by Morocco.

The delegation are both paid employees of the Moroccan government, and despite their glittery titles, their visit is solely to deceive the New Zealand public so they can continue their illegal exportation of stolen phosphate. They want New Zealand to accept a brutal occupation and oppression of people, to fulfil their business needs.

The money from the mining operations goes towards funding the 10 million land mines, which lie along the border of Western Sahara, forbidding the local Saharawi from ever returning to their home land. The area is guarded by 150,000 military and police, which is a ratio of 15 military to every 1 Saharawi. New Zealand is directly funding war crimes by continuing to purchase phosphate from the illegally occupied territory of Western Sahara.


Commission backtracks after Western Sahara ‘mistake’

The European Commission last week appeared to have changed its policy on the disputed territory of Western Sahara – only to immediately perform a U-turn.

The Western Sahara is a territory around the size of the UK, occupied by Morocco, and considered by the United Nations as a “non-self-governing territory”.

In a written response to Heidi Hautala, a Green MEP from Finland, the commission said products exported to the EU from the territory must be labelled as “Western Sahara.”

That admission would suggest the Western Sahara is a distinct territory from the rest of Morocco, signalling an about face from a European Commission that recently cut a controversial trade deal with Rabat.

EU Observer


Zimbabwe to issue food coupons as maize prices are out of reach for many

Zimbabwe will, from next week, adopt a coupon system similar to food stamps amid growing concern that vulnerable groups are unable to access subsidised maize meal.

Addressing journalists after a cabinet meeting, information and broadcasting services minister Monica Mutsvangwa said there was a team compiling a database to ensure the smooth operation of the system.

“A targeted coupon scheme for the vulnerable is in the offing, with the compilation of a database at an advanced stage,” she said.

She added that when the database was finalised after a vetting process, government would then move maize meal to targeted communities, where coupon holders could buy it cheaper. This, she said, was a move to guard the crisis from being hijacked by corrupt people in the maize industry who would make the situation worse for the poor.


Media environment far from ideal

Zimbabwe’s 2018 elections, coming on the backdrop of the ouster of former president Robert Mugabe in November 2017, were held amid great expectations of a new era that would spur the country’s socio-economic development in a concomitantly open and free democratic space.

These expectations were underpinned through pledges by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s newly-elected government to undertake requisite economic and political reforms to unlock international foreign direct investment as enunciated through his “Zimbabwe is open for business” mantra. Media policy and law reforms were among the key reforms critical to steering the Zimbabwean ship in the right direction and retaining its pride of place in the international community.

It is against these expectations that the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, led by Monica Mutsvangwa, in November 2018, held consultative meetings with key media stakeholders to get input into the form and shape the envisaged reforms would take.

The Independent

Sanctions Should Not Affect Zimbabwe’s Economic Growth – France Ambassador

FRANCE Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Richard Boidin has said the restrictive measures imposed against the southern Africa nation should not affect the country’s growth.

He said although Zimbabwe international image was not impressive, it however, should not discourage French companies from investing in Zimbabwe.

Boidin was speaking in Msasa, Harare Wednesday at the commissioning of a tiles adhesive plant constructed by Saint-Gobain Construction Products Zimbabwe – a French owned company.

“That a company like Saint-Gobain decided to invest in Zimbabwe, is a strong message alongside other French companies and brands like Lafarge Lessafre, AGS and Total operating locally,” he said

New Zimbabwe


Swaziland Democracy Leaders Lose High Court Case Against Police Raids On Legal Technicality

Prodemocracy campaigners in Swaziland (eSwatini) who had their homes raided and property seized by police lost their High Court case calling the raids unconstitutional on a legal technicality.

Police acting on warrants from the Manzini and Mbabane magistrates’ courts raided homes of members of the newly-formed Political Parties Assembly (PPA) in December 2019.

Ngwane National Liberatory Congress (NNLC) President Sibongile Mazibuko; Chairman of Sibanhle Sinje National Movement Musa Nkambule; People’ United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) Secretary General Wandile Dludlu and President of the Swaziland Democratic Party (SWADEPA), Jan Sithole argued the warrants had been issued illegally.


Swaziland’s King Mswati Under Pressure from China to End Support for Taiwan

Western countries have not exerted much pressure on Swaziland’s absolute monarchy to rectify its lack of democracy and human rights. Neither has another democracy, the People’s Republic of China, more commonly known as Taiwan. A country with whom Swaziland (renamed Eswatini by King Mswati III in 2018) – as the only country In Africa – has diplomatic ties with, writes Peter Kenworthy for Afrika Kontakt.

The UN has not recognized Taiwan since it switched its diplomatic recognition to China in 1971.

In a statement on Swaziland-Taiwan relations from July 2019, government spokesperson Percy Simelane spoke of the “unbroken diplomatic relations” between the two countries, since Swaziland’s independence in 1968.


Democratic Republic of Congo

DR Congo forces captured 40 ADF fighters near Makeke, UN says

The Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) captured 40 Allied Democratic Forces fighter’s in the restive east, the United Nations mission MONUSCO said on Wednesday.

At around 10:30 p.m. (2130 GMT) on Sunday, February 9, “a joint action launched against the ADF enabled the FARDC to apprehend 40 ADF fighters near Makeke and take them to the FARDC base in Mangina,” said MONUSCO military spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Claude Raoul Djehoungo.

Senior FARDC officials did not confirm or deny the capture or detention of 40 ADF combatants.

The joint MONUSCO-FARDC operation came on the same day that at least seven civilians were killed in Makeke in an attack blamed on the ADF.

The Defense Post

WHO extends emergency status of Ebola in DR Congo

The World Health Organization (WHO) has extended its global emergency designation for the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo but said the sharp decline in cases was “extremely positive”.

“As long as there is a single case of Ebola in an area as insecure and unstable as eastern DRC, the potential remains for a much larger epidemic,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told journalists in Geneva on Wednesday.

Tedros expressed hope that the emergency could be lifted within the next three months on the advice of the WHO’s emergency committee of international experts.


Central African Republic

Year-old peace agreement must be implemented for ‘lasting peace’ in Central African Republic

Following a visit to the Central African Republic, a UN independent expert said that everyone must take all measures necessary to effectively implement the peace agreement that was signed in Bangui a year ago.

“The first anniversary of the Khartoum Peace Agreement, celebrated on 6 February, provided an opportunity for all parties to review its implementation, which will lead to a lasting peace”, Yao Agbetse, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic, said on Thursday.

In pointing out that the agreement allowed armed groups to join the Government, he said it is considered “a symbol of the unification of the Republic”.

UN News

28 militiamen sentenced in Central African Republic for murder of civilians, UN peacekeepers

The sentencing of 28 militia members on Friday in the Central African Republic (CAR) for an array of violent crimes, including the murder of civilians as well as 10 UN peacekeepers, has been hailed as a major step forward in the fight against impunity there.

The UN Mission in CAR (MINUSCA) welcomed the verdict of the Bangui Court of Appeal in the trial of 32 fighters from the mostly-Christian Anti-Balaka militia, accused of crimes committed in May, 2017, in Bangassou and other communities in the country’s southeast.

According to news reports, dozens of Muslims were slaughtered in the town during the massacre. Prison sentences ranged from 10-15 years, with two of the commanders as well as three other senior figures, given life sentences, including forced labour.

UN News


Killings, corruption and censorship besiege media freedom

A surge in violent attacks, threats, harassment and intimidation of media workers is entrenching Somalia as one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist, Amnesty International said today.

In a new report, , We live in perpetual fear”, the organization documents dramatic deterioration in the right to freedom of expression and media freedom since President Mohamed Abdullahi ‘Farmajo’ took office in February 2017. Journalists contend with targeted attacks from both Al-Shabaab and government security forces, increased censorship and arbitrary arrests, forcing eight to flee the country.

“Somali journalists are under siege. From barely surviving explosive-wired cars, being shot, beaten up and arbitrarily arrested, journalists are working in horrifying conditions,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa.

Amnesty International

Somalia Apologizes to Somalilanders Over Civil War Atrocities

Three days after the meeting between the Presidents of Somalia and Somaliland in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Somalia leader Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo has officially apologized for the atrocities against the people in Somaliland during the war in 1991.

Speaking during the conclusion of the annual judiciary conference in Mogadishu, President Farmajo apologized for the atrocities against what he called our brothers in the North.

“It is imperative that we correct black chapters in our history. That which was regrettably incurred against the northerners needs to be acknowledged. An apology is due to the north as the national President and I need that you (Somalians) do so with me,” Farmajo said.

“I convey our regrets to the dead, the wounded, the traumatized,” he added.

“Somalia did not invade the north. What happened was not clan-driven. A system carried it out,” he said.

East African Business Week