News Briefs 15 March 2019

Democratic Republic of Congo

UN slams DRC failure to prevent December massacre

The UN on Tuesday criticised authorities in southwestern Democratic Republic of Congo for failing to prevent a massacre of hundreds of people last December, despite clear signs of rising tensions.

The attacks could amount to crimes against humanity, the UN human rights office said, as it presented the findings of an investigation into intercommunal violence in four locations in Yumbi territory between December 16 and 18 2018.

“It is crucial to ensure that the perpetrators of these terrible crimes are punished,” UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said.

The UN Joint Human Rights Office in the DRC deployed investigators after receiving “credible reports” that nearly 900 people had been killed in clashes between the Banunu and Batende communities.

Business Day

DRC President Tshisekedi pardons about 700 political prisoners

Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) new President Felix Tshisekedi on Wednesday pardoned about 700 political prisoners who were jailed under his predecessor.

Tshisekedi signed the decree, fulfilling a promise he made earlier this month to do so during his first 100 days in office.

Among those set for release is Firmin Yangambi, who was sentenced in 2009 to 20 years in prison on charges of being a threat to national security.

Also being freed is Franck Diongo, an opposition figure who was sentenced to five years.

Amnesty International praised Tshisekedi’s move, saying in a statement it was “to be applauded as a crucial first step towards restoration of human rights in the country”.



No agreement reached in Kenya-Somalia border dispute

Despite the intervention of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Kenya and Somalia have failed to settle a maritime border dispute which has spiked diplomatic tensions between them.

Mogadishu will instead wait for the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to rule on the dispute as opposed to Nairobi’s demand for an out-of-court settlement and reversion to a map agreeable to both sides, the Business Daily reported.

Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo and Ahmed arrived in the Kenyan capital Nairobi on Tuesday night for talks with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta but endeavours to resolve the dispute failed. Kenya released no details of the discussions and nor was a joint communiqué issued.

The maritime border dispute has been simmering for years, negatively impacting relations between the two countries. On February 16 Kenya recalled its ambassador to Somalia and Mogadishu subsequently followed suit by recalling its own ambassador.


Death toll rises to 18 in Somalia bombing, clashes with militants

The death toll from a powerful car bombing explosion and clashes between security forces and gunmen near a hotel in the Somali capital has risen to 18, police said on Friday. An Islamic extremist group claimed that a Mogadishu hotel was the intended target, but a police officer said militants detonated a bomb while trying to assassinate a judge.

The car bomb went off near the residence of appeals court chief judge Abshir Omar, and security forces stationed outside the judge’s house fought off gunmen who tried to force their way inside, police officer Capt. Mohamed Hussein said.

At least 40 others were injured in the attack, said Hussein. He said the death toll could rise as many of the wounded are still being treated in hospitals.

Shortly after the detonation, at least four gunmen running on foot opened fire at nearby buildings and businesses, sparking clashes with security forces stationed nearby and hotel guards, he said.


Central African Republic

Human Rights Council adopts Universal Periodic Review outcomes of the Central African Republic and Monaco

The Human Rights Council this afternoon adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcomes of the Central African Republic and Monaco.

Léopold Ismael Samba, Permanent Representative of the Central African Republic to the United Nations Office at Geneva, recalled that the adoption of the Universal Periodic Review was taking place at a decisive moment in the history of the Central African Republic.  Out of 207 recommendations, the Government had accepted 178 and taken note of 28.  The accepted recommendations concerned the re-establishment of State authority, the search for peaceful solutions to the conflict, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, and the fight against impunity.

In the ensuing discussion, speakers commended the Government of the Central African Republic for its focus on promoting security, peace and national reconciliation.  States encouraged the Government to view all recommendations as guides towards the attainment of human rights.  Speakers also commended the country for putting in place mechanisms for preventing discrimination against women and children and for adopting measures to end the recruitment of children in armed conflicts.  Concern was raised that perpetrators still enjoyed impunity, which further threatened civilians, especially women and girls.  

Speaking were China, Côte D’Ivoire, Cuba, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Iraq, Madagascar, Philippines, Russian Federation and Senegal.

Africa News

Central African Republic’s Khartoum Agreement: Optimism and challenges

The peace accord dubbed the “Khartoum agreement” is officially titled the “Political Accord for Peace and Reconciliation.” The peace deal was first initialled in Khartoum, Sudan, on Tuesday, 5 February.

Over the weekend, details of the peace accord emerged brightening peace prospects in CAR notwithstanding that this is the eighth agreement since the fighting began in 2013. Analysts say what is different this time is that the deal is the result of lengthy and direct dialogue between the government in CAR and rebel groups. The talks were brokered by the African Union (AU) and supported by the United Nations (UN). Chad, Congo, Gabon, Angola, Cameroon, France, Britain, Russia and the United States are also said to have contributed, in some way, to the peace initiative.

Reporting on some of the key details of the peace agreement, AP notes that these include the dissolution of armed groups, the formation of an inclusive government and the creation of a fund for victims who have suffered in years of conflict.

The Vatican


Sudan protesters rally as new cabinet is sworn in

Scores of protesters rallied in the Sudanese capital on Thursday as President Omar al-Bashir swore in a new cabinet to tackle an economic crisis that has triggered months of protests against his rule.

Chanting their movement’s catch-cry “Freedom, peace, justice”, protesters took to the streets in areas of Khartoum and its twin city of Omdurman, witnesses said. But security forces swiftly confronted them with tear gas, they said.

“How long will you remain silent?” chanted some protesters, urging residents to join the demonstrations.

Bashir on Thursday swore in a new cabinet tasked with tackling the economic crisis, the key factor behind the protests. The new cabinet led by Prime Minister Mohamed Tahir Eila is Sudan’s third government in less than two years, with the previous two sacked by Bashir for failing to revive the economy.

Business Day

Sudanese vow to keep protesting as president digs in

Three months after Sudanese protesters rose up against President Omar al-Bashir, the longtime autocrat has bound himself more tightly to the military and refuses to bow to their demands.

The wily 74-year-old has remained in power through three decades of war and sanctions, the secession of Sudan’s oil-rich south in 2011 and an international arrest warrant for genocide and war crimes linked to the Darfur conflict.

But since December he has faced the biggest protests of his long rule, with political parties and unions demanding his ouster and demonstrators chanting slogans from the 2011 Arab Spring.

A look at where things stand, three months on.

Demonstrators are still taking to the streets nearly every day despite a heavy crackdown by security forces. The largest protests are being held in the capital, Khartoum, and nearby Omdurman, with smaller ones breaking out elsewhere.


South Sudan

South Sudan accord in danger of collapse, think-tank warns

South Sudan’s six-month-old peace deal is doomed to collapse unless the sides can settle a string of disputes and bring former rebels into the army before the formation of a new government in May, a think-tank said on Wednesday.

About 400,000 people have been killed and more than a third of the country’s 12-million people uprooted by the five-year civil war, a conflict punctuated by multiple rounds of mediation followed by renewed bloodshed.

The accord signed in September by President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar — the former vice president — has reduced fighting but could break down over several disputes, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group said in a report. “The peace agreement is stalling and is at risk of collapse if more political deals aren’t struck,” said Alan Boswell, the group’s South Sudan analyst.

There was no immediate comment from the government or Machar’s supporters.

Business Day

South Sudan’s bid to build a new army is troubled

A fortnight ago, the United Nations envoy to South Sudan, David Shearer, noted that, after five years of civil war and many botched peace deals, fighting in the world’s newest nation has diminished greatly since the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan was signed on September 12 2018.

South Sudan plunged into violence in December 2013 when forces loyal to President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, and those loyal to Riek Machar, the former vice-president and a Nuer, fought.

The main protagonists are trying to rebuild trust and develop a security sector reform (SSR) strategy to merge their forces and several other militias into a new South Sudan People’s Defence Force (SSPDF) capable of providing the security that the South Sudanese citizens expect and demand.

The stakes could hardly be higher. The country’s brutal civil war has killed nearly 400 000 people, displaced millions and left seven million — two-thirds of the population — in dire need of humanitarian aid.

Mail& Guardian

Western Sahara

Kohler Submits Invitations for 2nd Roundtable

The personal envoy of the UN Secretary-General, Horst Kohler, has officially addressed invitations to a roundtable to the parties involved in the Western Sahara conflict.

AFP reported that the second roundtable will take place behind closed doors, like the first roundtable, which convened December 5-6 in Geneva.

Diplomats quoted by AFP said that the objective is to deepen the talks that began in December on political and economic dimensions.

While they do not expect a “breakthrough” during the second roundtable, one of the diplomats said that it would be “positive” if the second roundtable would experience the “same context, the same atmosphere, and same spirit.”

None of the parties—Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania, and Polisario—have confirmed receiving formal invitations from Kohler. But the personal envoy had already announced his intention to invite the parties to a second roundtable during the first roundtable.

Morocco World News

Amnesty Denounces Moroccan Repression Against Sahrawi People

Non-governmental organization Amnesty International denounced on Tuesday the pressure exerted by the authorities of the Moroccan occupation against peaceful demonstrations in the occupied Sahrawi cities.

“The Moroccan Police dispersed violently in June a peaceful demonstration in occupied Aaiun,” during a visit of the Personal Envoy of UN Secretary General for Western Sahara, denounced Amnesty International in its report on “the situation of human rights in the Middle East and North Africa,” published on Tuesday.

Last September, underlined the human rights organization, the police of the Moroccan occupation resorted to an unjustified force against peaceful Sahrawi demonstrators who were against the illegal agreement on fisheries concluded in August by the European Union (EU) and Morocco, affirming, in this regard, that the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) gave a ruling in February according to which this agreement shouldn’t be applied to the adjacent waters in occupied Western Sahara.



eSwatini fights for free political expression

King Mswati III of eSwatini has been criticised for clamping down on critical voices who challenge his authoritarian rule. Many of the activists demanding reform of the anti-democratic parts of the constitution are either in jail and or in exile.

The muzzling of dissidents became more pronounced when the king introduced the Suppression of Terrorism Act in 2008, which meant certain political parties critical of the regime were categorised as terrorist organisations.

These include the People’s United Democratic Movement (Pudemo), the country’s biggest opposition party, along with its youth wing, the Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO); the Umbane People’s Liberation Army, also known as People’s Liberation Army, which is a secret militant group allegedly linked to Pudemo; and a vocal South African-based organisation called Swaziland Solidarity Network (SNN), which supports progressive organisations striving for systematic reforms and democracy.

Flanked by South Africa and Mozambique, eSwatini is predominantly a rural country with a population of about 1.3-million people. Its workers are divided into civil servants and those who receive menial wages.

Mail& Guardian

Swaziland Govt Wage Bill Chaos as Auditor General Reveals Error and Fraud

In his budget speech Neal Rijkenberg the Finance Minister of Swaziland / eSwatini stated that public service salaries had risen by 125 percent in the past 10 years and he threatened to cut the kingdom’s wage bill. He said the kingdom could not afford to pay cost of living salary adjustments (CoLA).

Now, the Swaziland Auditor General (AG) Timothy Matsebula in his annual report has revealed that the government has no clear idea how much money it is legitimately paying out in salaries. Matsebula reported in the year ending March 2018 the government overpaid its workers by E6.2 million and a further E1.9 million was paid to ‘ghost employees’ – that is workers who do not exist.

He also said that it was impossible to tell how many ghost workers there were in schools across Swaziland.

The AG reported the overpayments were made across a number of government departments.



Zimbabwe Suspends NGO Over January Public Protests

The Zimbabwean government has suspended a non-governmental organization, which allegedly encouraged people to stage public protests early this year over the high cost of living following President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s announcement of fuel prices of up to 150 percent.

Masvingo district administrator Ray Hove suspended with immediate effect Community Tolerance and Reconciliation Development Trust, a youth organization that promotes democracy, development and human rights issues.

Hove stressed that the NGO can no longer carryout activities of any kind in the district “pending investigations on registration and approval of your organization by our office.”

Hove declined to shed light on the circumstances leading to the suspension of NGO when he was asked by VOA Zimbabwe Service to provide details of the allegations being made against the organization.

Voice of America

Zimbabwe miners to pay 80% wage increase

Zimbabwe mining companies – which include units of Anglo Platinum, Impala Platinum and Caledonia Mining – are to award a wage increase of just under 80% to mine workers, with the salary for the lowest-paid worker in the industry rising to about 480 RTGS dollars* per month.

At current rates, this amounts to approximately US$192 or R2 800.

Protracted negotiations between the Associated Mine Workers Union of Zimbabwe (AMWUZ) and the Zimbabwe Chamber of Mines resulted in the salary adjustment for employees in the industry. The cost of living in the country rose dramatically after inflation for January surged to above 50%.

“Following extensive negotiations between the AMWUZ and the Zimbabwe chamber of mines, we managed to cobble out an agreement of 80% wage/salary increase for the mining industry covering the period January to December 2019,” Tinago Ruzive, president of the mine workers’ union, said Thursday.


Africa in General

SA to sit in next critical Zimbabwe Treasury meetings

In an unprecedented move, Zimbabwe has agreed to allow SA, to sit in official Ministry of Finance meetings to oversee Harare’s debt clearance strategy tied to the country’s prospects of securing new funding, its reform agenda and economic recovery plan, confidential documents show.

President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa this week dashed hopes that Pretoria would immediately open its wallet and extend critically-needed financial assistance to cash-strapped Zimbabwe, the Daily News can report.

However, the leader of Africa’s most industrialised country also made it clear that South Africa was ready to help Zimbabwe to revive its sickly economy – although this would be done within Pretoria’s means and after the regional economic giant had fully considered all the available options.

In addition, Ramaphosa bluntly demanded that President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his under-pressure government provide a safe and conducive investment climate for South African companies operating in Zimbabwe.


Malawi’s Joyce Banda quits presidential race

Joyce Banda, who was Malawi’s first female president in 2012, has withdrawn from the 2019 presidential race, endorsing opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera who heads the Malawi Congress Party.

Speaking to AFP, Banda, who heads the People’s Party, confirmed her decision, saying: “Yes, it is true”.

But she declined to comment further ahead of a joint news conference with Chakwera on Saturday.

In a joint statement, the two parties said they had begun talks in 2015, a year after Banda lost the presidency, partly as a result of a huge multimillion-dollar corruption case known as the “Cashgate” scandal.

Banda fled the country into self-imposed exile but returned to Malawi last year, saying the allegations against her were politically motivated. She has never faced any charges.

Africa News

SA, Zim discussing state-guaranteed bank loan

South Africa is considering more loans to Zimbabwe, including state-guaranteed funding from banks to support its northern neighbour’s cash-strapped private sector.

The facility is among a range of options the two nations’ presidents discussed at a bilateral meeting Tuesday in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare, Foreign Minister Sibusiso Busi Moyo said.

The talks come almost three months after South Africa rejected Zimbabwe’s request to borrow $1.2 billion.

The leaders agreed to “consider options for expanding the standing facility arrangement between the respective central banks,” Moyo said.

“Other financing options beyond this are also being explored, for example a facility from South African private banks to the Zimbabwe private sector and guaranteed by the South African government with an appropriate counter-guarantee from the Zimbabwe government.”


Sisulu to lead delegation to SADC Council of Ministers meeting in Namibia

International Relations and Cooperation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu will lead a South African delegation to Windhoek, Namibia, for a meeting of the SADC Council of Ministers, her office said on Thursday.

The meeting is expected to take place on Friday and Saturday.

The department said the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Council of Ministers is responsible for overseeing the functioning and development of the region. The Council also ensures that policies and decisions taken are implemented.

The meeting is expected to deliberate on a number of key issues pertaining to the region and will also consider a number of strategic documents and receive update reports on the progress made since the last meeting, which took place in Windhoek in August last year.

“Key issues to be deliberated upon will include the status of finances of the organisation and the approval of the 2019/20 budget. Furthermore, the Council will also reflect on progress made towards Continental and Regional Integration,” the statement said.