Democratic Republic of Congo
Another 38 probable mass graves have been found in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where violence between troops and armed fighters has killed thousands of people since August, the United Nations announced on Wednesday.
This means at least 80 mass graves have been identified so far, the UN peacekeeping mission in the vast Central African nation said.
The latest mass graves were found this month in the Diboko and Sumbula areas of Kamonia territory by an investigative team from the local UN human rights office and the Congo’s military justice authorities, the UN said.
The security situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) continues to be a major source of concern, with violence in the Kasai provinces, in the western part of the vast country, reaching “disturbing” levels, the United Nations Security Council was told today.
Presenting the latest report of the Secretary-General on the situation in the DRC, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix, who recently visited the country, urged the Council to support the Government and the people to preserve the gains of the past 17 years.
“The current political impasse, the rising insecurity, and the worsening human rights and humanitarian situation in the DRC require a concerted response from regional and international partners,” Mr. Lacroix said.
United States and Somali military forces raided a rebel-held village in southern Somalia and killed several al-Shabab fighters early Thursday, a senior Somali intelligence official said, as both countries step up efforts against Africa’s deadliest Islamic extremist group.
Somali commandos accompanied by U.S. forces in two helicopters raided two locations, the official said. They included a detention center run by al-Shabab in Kunya-Barrow village in Lower Shabelle region, and an unknown number of detainees were freed.
Troops engaged a small number of extremist fighters, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.
U.S. Africa Command spokesman Mark Cheadle said U.S. forces conducted an “advise and assist mission” against al-Shabab with members of the Somali National Army in Kunya-Barrow. He gave no further details.
The Sacramento Bee
The UK today announced a package of global support for modern birth spacing at a major international summit held in London.
The package which goes up to 2022 will help save the lives of over 6,000 women globally by preventing maternal deaths – that’s one woman every 90 minutes. It will also support nearly 20 million women to receive voluntary contraceptives through family planning services, help avert 6 million unintended pregnancies; as well as help prevent the trauma of 75,000 stillbirths and nearly 44,000 new-born deaths.
A satellite event was held at the British Embassy Mogadishu, bringing together representatives from the Federal Government, UN partners and local and international Non-Governmental Organisations. Those present discussed how birth spacing can be used to save and improve lives, helping to prevent women from dying in childbirth and providing long term life-changing benefits for women and their families in Somalia. There were rich discussions on how to increase access to birth spacing methods, especially among hard-to-reach women in rural areas and IDP camps.
Central African Republic
The United Nations Security Council today expressed concern at the ongoing clashes between armed groups in the Central African Republic (CAR) and deplored that civilians from some communities, UN peacekeepers and aid workers continue to be targeted.
In a Presidential statement read out at a formal meeting, members of the Security Council said they believed this violence “continues to destabilize the country, cause many civilian casualties and cause large displacements of the population, even though the parties to the conflict have agreed to put an immediate end to hostilities.”
The Security Council deplored all attacks against civilians, human rights violations and violations of human rights and reiterated the urgent need to bring to justice all perpetrators of these violations or abuses, their status or political affiliation.
Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) suspended operations on Wednesday in the town of Zemio in southeastern Central African Republic after militants shot and killed a baby in a hospital hosting thousands of people displaced by violence.
Two armed men entered the hospital in Zemio – about 1,000 km (620 miles) east of the capital Bangui – on Tuesday and threatened a family before opening fire on them, shooting the baby in the head and killing her instantly, according to MSF.
“The callousness of this attack highlights both the indiscriminate nature and disturbing escalation in violence in CAR against civilians … and signals the diminishing space for aid organizations,” said Mia Hejdenberg, MSF’s head of mission.
The Sudanese government, businessmen, and banks anxiously awaited a decision on Tuesday that they hoped would permanently lift decades-old US trade sanctions against Khartoum and aid in gradually bringing the country back into the international fold.
Mohammed Saad, a Sudanese expatriate living in Boston, had all but convinced himself that he would finally be able to send money back home to his family without having to use intermediaries or alternative banking routes.
“Nothing is as dependable as banks when you want your family to receive money that you work hard day and night to collect and send home,” he told Al Jazeera. “I waited for this day for six months.”
The party of Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir said on Thursday it would hold the United States responsible for any insecurity in Sudan after Washington extended decades-old sanctions against Khartoum.
“The people who took this decision (of extending sanctions) will bear the responsibility of any political or security impact resulting from this decision,” the deputy chief of Bashir’s National Congress Party said.
“This decision will encourage the rebels and armed groups to start their activities and disturb security in Sudan and across the region,” Ibrahim Mahmoud said.
South Sudanese government forces are approaching the headquarters of rebel forces led by former vice president Riek Machar, a United Nations official says.
David Shearer, the head of the U.N. mission in South Sudan, said thousands of civilians have been displaced in several areas of Upper Nile state as soldiers advance on the rebels’ base in the town of Pagak, in the northeast.
Shearer told journalists in Juba Wednesday that there has been heavy fighting between the army, known as the SPLA, and opposition forces, known as the SPLA-IO.
Voice of America
The United Nations says it is considering opening a peacekeeping base in South Sudan’s troubled Yei region, which has “gone through a nightmare” in recent months amid warnings of ethnic violence. It would be the U.N.’s first such expansion since civil war began in 2013.
“I can see the prosperity that was once here,” the peacekeeping mission’s chief, David Shearer, told residents on his first visit. But stories of rape, killings and abductions are common in what has become one of South Sudan’s most volatile cities.
The U.N. warned of growing ethnic violence after bodies with bound hands were found in Yei late last year. In May, a U.N. report said pro-government forces killed 114 civilians in Yei between July and January, brutally raping girls and women in front of their families.
The chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat expressed Monday, in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), his concern with the current deadlock regarding the conflict in Western Sahara, which has been occupied by Morocco since 1975
“Even though we welcome the decrease in tensions around Al-Guerguerat in Western Sahara, the nomination of a new personal representative of the United Nations Secretary General and his intention to launch a new initiative to settle the political conflict, we remain concerned with the current deadlock,” said Moussa Faki at the opening of the 29th African Union Summit.
“We hope that the presence of both parties (Morocco and the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic) as members of our Union will facilitate a consensual solution, in conformity with international law, which will guarantee the Sahrawi people’s right to self-determination,” he said, adding that “the issues of peace and security continue to highly worry us.”
Sahara Press Service
The Moroccan state company OCP, on the 13th of July, has decided to drop defending the, New Zealand bound, detained conflict phosphate rock cargo in South Africa. OCP has realised that it could not defend the indefensible and walked away giving the people of Western Sahara a $USD5 million victory before the trial over the, Ballance Agri-Nutrients bound, phosphate rock ownership had even begun.
On 1 May 2017, the bulk vessel NM Cherry Blossom was detained in Port Elizabeth, on a stop-over to Ballance Agri-Nutrients in New Zealand. The vessel contained 55.000 tonnes of phosphate rock plundered from occupied Western Sahara.
The UN has concluded that any exploitation of resources in Western Sahara would be illegal if the Saharawi people do not consent to it. Similarly, the Court of Justice of the EU on 21 December 2016 judged that trading with the territory would be illegal without such consent. However, Morocco, illegally occupying parts of Western Sahara since 1975, has kept the exports of Western Sahara phosphate rock. In 2016, Morocco earned over 200 million USD from the rock export from the territory.
The Human Rights Committee today concluded its consideration of Swaziland’s implementation of the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, reviewed in the absence of a report.
In his opening remarks, Edgar E. Hillary, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs of Swaziland, regretted that the presentation was the result of the country’s inability to report in a timely manner, due to the lack of institutional memory and dedicated focal personnel. Since 2005, when the initial report was due, there had been remarkable development in the implementation of civil and political rights. On 26 July 2005, the Kingdom of Swaziland had adopted a constitution after wide consultation with citizens, civil society organizations, and international and regional partners. Chapter III of the Constitution entrenched a bill of rights which provided for the fundamental human rights contained in the Covenant, as well as a protection mechanism in cases of human rights violations ruled by the High Court of Swaziland. Furthermore, Swaziland was reviewing the existing legislative framework with the intention of aligning it with the Constitution and international human rights instruments to which the country was a party.
South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC) claims that Swaziland is abusing human rights and suppressing dissent and political activity, APA reports here on Thursday.The ANC reportedly recommended the party’s supports for the call for the unbanning of political parties in Swaziland and the release of all political prisoners, and that Swaziland is placed before SADC for intervention.
SA’s eNCA media reports suggest that the recommendation was made during the on-going five-day Policy Conference of the African National Congress held in SA.
“The commission recommended that the ANC strengthens its solidarity campaign on Swaziland and that they formalise the party-to-party relations with People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO),” media reported.
Journal du Cameroun
Suspected ruling party supporters burnt a vehicle belonging to Zimbabwe’s main opposition MDC party in apparent retaliation for a demonstration it held in Harare, a top party official said on Thursday.
Meanwhile at least six MDC supporters were arrested and another 10 injured by police armed with baton sticks during Wednesday’s protest march in central Harare.
Beaten with baton sticks
“Ten were injured and received treatment (at a Harare clinic). Three were seriously injured and I think they were admitted. They were beaten up with baton sticks,” MDC Secretary General Douglas Mwonzora told News24.
Opposition parties fear a repeat of the 2008 election violence as Zimbabwe gears up for elections next year.
This comes after one of the opposition party MDC-T’s vehicles was torched at a car park in the high-density suburb of Kuwadzana in Harare on Wednesday night.
MDC-T vice-president, Nelson Chamisa, who is also Kuwadzana East legislator, told a press conference Thursday that the ruling Zanu PF was planning a violent 2018 election campaign, adding it was an “act of terrorism” and there would be no “willingness” on the part of government to stop it.
Africa in General
During the 29th Heads of States and Governments Summit in Addis Ababa Ethiopia, for the first time in the history of the African Union, a budget for the youth was allocated under the African Youth Development Fund for USD 7 Million, one percent of the African Union budget to fast track African youth activities.
The funds will be used to Strengthen the capacity building of the Pan African Youth Union and National Youth Councils as well as the African Union Youth Volunteers programmes. 70% the Fund will be used to finance youth entrepreneurial Projects (Start-up projects).
The Pan African Youth Union President, Ms. Francine Muyumba had for the past years mobilized Africa Union Member States, Heads of States and government to ensure the support and adoption of the African Youth Development Fund.
South Africa, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo have reaffirmed their commitment to the Tripartite Mechanism, which is a crucial vehicle to regional peace efforts.
The three counties met in Luanda, Angola, for their Extra Ordinary Meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Tripartite Mechanism, which was attended by their Foreign Affairs Ministers. The Ministers used the occasion to review regional, continental and international issues.
“The Ministers noted with great appreciation the commendable work in the area of peace and security, as evidenced by the successful completion of the first phase of training of army recruits at the Kitona and Mura bases and training in the public order,” the Ministers said in a communique issued after the meeting on Thursday.
The Ministers noted that the security situation in the eastern part of the DRC has substantially improved.
Zambia’s parliament on Tuesday approved a 90-day state of emergency decreed by President Edgar Lungu, a move that critics see as an effort to tighten his grip on power.
Opposition lawmakers boycotted the vote by leaving the chamber, leaving only the 85 members of the president’s majority party to pass the measure.
Lungu last week gave police increased powers of arrest and detention, alleging that opposition parties were behind a string of arson attacks intended “to create terror and panic”, including one that burned down the main market in the capital last week.
Zimbabwean First Lady Grace Mugabe has reportedly moved to expand her Mazowe “empire” in Mashonaland province by grabbing the “iconic state-owned Mazowe Dam – almost a century after it was built – and surrounding tracts of land”.
According to Zimbabwe Independent, the move had heightened her “bitter fights with local villagers”, who were now barred from using the huge dam, as she also wanted to privatise it.
The First Lady’s growing empire already included a huge double-storey mansion, a dairy farm, an orphanage and a school.
The report said that Grace was also planning on building a university.