News Briefs 15 March 2021

Southern Africa Country Briefs


Organisation helps returning Zimbabwe refugees get back on their feet

The coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the global job market.

This has forced many Zimbabweans to return home. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is trying to help them get back on their feet.

It’s partnering with a farming foundation to train migrant returnees and rural communities to generate income.

The IOM is also assisting Zimbabwe to provide PPE, sanitisers and water at all border posts regarded as high-risk areas for COVID-19.

eNCA 15 March 2021

Chamisa Speaks on Arrest Threats

MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa says calls for unity in the country should not unsettle top Zanu PF officials, but it is only highlighting the ruling party’s partisanship ideologies cannot turnaround the Zimbabwe’s declining economic fortunes.

Last week, the opposition leader delivered his party’s 2021 Agenda Address, which seemingly revived fading hopes for political change among citizens as he vowed to confront bad governance practices head-on.

Chamisa’s address came after almost year since his party lost its headquarters, popularly known as Harvest House, and critical government financial support to a rival opposition camp, the MDC-T now led by Douglas Mwonzora.

These developments were described by critics as a ploy by the ruling party, using state institutions, to weaken the main opposition party.

AllAfrica 15 March 2021


Thousands at risk of displacement due to imminent forced evictions in Eswatini and Zimbabwe

The threat of forced eviction is putting thousands of people across Southern Africa at serious risk amid the pandemic, Amnesty International said today. The organization highlighted two cases, in Eswatini and Zimbabwe, where authorities are attempting to remove people from their homes to make way for commercial interests, without following procedural safeguards and offering them any alternative accommodation.

In Madonsa town in Eswatini, more than 100 people have been living under the threat of forced eviction for years, to make way for the Eswatini National Provident Fund, a national pension fund administrator. Residents are anxious and have nowhere to go after they were served with a legal notice by the Fund to vacate their homes by 5 March. Meanwhile in Zimbabwe, more than 12,000 people from the Shangani Indigenous minority group are still facing eviction from their ancestral land in Chilonga, and have reported being intimidated and harassed by authorities following a court order on 6 March to temporarily stall the eviction.

“Both Zimbabwe and Eswatini have grim histories of not observing due process when evicting people, including failing to consult communities or offering alternative places of accommodation when carrying out evictions. It is especially appalling that these governments are attempting to make people homeless during a pandemic. These evictions must be immediately halted and legal safeguards put in place to secure the rights of people in affected communities.”

Africa News 12 March 2021

Swaziland gets vaccine doses, braces for vaccination

Swaziland on Thursday received the first 20,000 doses of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine as the country prepares for mass vaccination.

Health Minister Lizzie Nkosi said the country expects an additional 12,000 doses from the COVAX facility by this weekend.

“Frontline workers will be vaccinated in the first phase. We encourage Swazis to register for vaccination as this vaccine has proven to reduce incidents of acute illness and deaths. We’ll monitor all those taking the vaccine,” said Nkosi.

“We have formed several teams that will be responsible for the vaccination exercise. One of the team is from Israel, which will assist with logistics. We also have a team from Cuba that will assist our health workers,” she said, adding this assistance is in addition to medicines and other provisions already received from India.

India High Commissioner Rhada Venkataram said: “The government of India will continue to support Eswatini [Swaziland] in its fight against the pandemic as well as in achieving its development goals by raising the levels of engagements between the two friendly countries.”

Anadolu Agency 11 March 2021

Democratic Republic of Congo

DRC Postpones Astrazeneca Vaccine Rollout

The DR Congo will postpone its vaccination campaign using the AstraZeneca jab, following other countries taking similar precautionary measures, the government said on Saturday.

The Democratic Republic of Congo had received 1.7 million doses of the vaccine against Covid-19 made by Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca and was due to start its campaign on March 15.

“As a precautionary measure, we decided to postpone the date for the launch of vaccination in the DRC,” Health Minister Eteni Longondo said in a statement.

Denmark, Norway, Bulgaria and Iceland have paused using the shot as a precaution over blood clot fears and an Indian official on Saturday said the country would carry out a deeper review of its post-vaccination side effects.

The World Health Organization has said that no causal link has been established between the AstraZeneca vaccine and blood clotting.

EWN 13 March 2021

15 massacred in east DR Congo, ADF militia suspected

At least 15 civilians were massacred overnight in eastern DR Congo, a monitoring group in the region said Monday, saying the notorious ADF militia were suspected.

“At least 15 civilians were killed last night in Bulongo (Beni territory, North Kivu). The ADF are suspects,” the Kivu Security Tracker (KST) group posted on Twitter.

Local sources separately confirmed the attack and also blamed the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a historically Ugandan Islamist group that has holed up in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo since 1995. 15 March 2021

Central Africa and the Horn of Africa

Central African Republic

Central African Republic votes amid tight security after December violence

Almost all polling stations in Central African Republic were able to open for a second round of parliamentary elections on Sunday, the electoral body said, amid heavy security to deter rebels who disrupted polls in December.

In Zado, a hillside village outside the capital Bangui, many residents had only recently returned to their homes after they fled fighting in January when the insurgents tried to seize power after the contested presidential election.

Local polling station director Emmanuel Maskemde said only 50 of 300 registered voters had so far turned up to cast their ballots.

“They have a lot to think about. Morale could be low,” he said.

In Bangui, small lines of residents could be seen waiting to vote as large numbers of police and gendarmes stood by.

Defence Web 15 March 2021

Central African Republic Braces for Tense Elections Amid Conflict

Central African Republic will vote in a second round of parliamentary elections on Sunday under high security after a surge in rebel violence surrounding December’s polls.

Insurgents laid siege to the capital Bangui in January, strangling food supply routes, forcing more than 200,000 from their homes, and raising concerns that the country was slipping back into the kind of sectarian conflict that has killed thousands over the past decade.

President Faustin Archange Touadéra won re-election but rebels, who the United Nations say are backed by former president François Bozizé, sought to take control amid allegations of voting irregularities.

Sunday’s polls concern leglislative elections, including run-off votes in 49 electoral districts and first round voting in 69 districts where violence stopped the vote from taking place in December.

The country’s army, backed by Russian and Rwandan forces, and aided by U.N. peacekeepers, have steadily retaken a number of rebel strongholds since their initial offensive.

US News 12 March 2021


Sudan pardons powerful Janjaweed militia chief

Sudan has pardoned and released powerful Janjaweed militia chief Musa Hilal, a UN-sanctioned leader accused by rights groups of atrocities in Darfur.

The release of Hilal and other members of his forces comes as Sudan’s transitional government pushes peace efforts in the war-ravaged western region, following an October peace accord with rebel groups aimed to end decades of conflict.

“Musa Hilal was released along with others,” Ismail Aghbash, an aide to Hilal, told AFP. “They are now on their way back home.”

He had been in detention since 2017.

Hilal’s “Awakening Revolutionary Council” force confirmed their leader’s release along with other members on Thursday, saying “the case against them was cancelled” following a pardon by the authorities

Africa News 11 March 2021

Japan-trained Darfur rebel chief turned Sudan finance minister

Sudan’s new finance minister, Gibril Ibrahim, is a veteran rebel leader who fought against marginalisation under ousted president Omar al-Bashir. Now, the Japan-educated former professor holds the keys to the country’s economic future.

Ibrahim, 66, has for nearly a decade led the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), a key rebel group in Sudan’s western Darfur region that played a major role in the bitter conflict which erupted there in 2003.

A polyglot and holder of a PhD in economics from Japan, he now is part of a government tasked with steering the country through a transitional period following Bashir’s ouster in April 2019.

“Ibrahim’s political expertise played a role in choosing him as finance minister,” said Sudanese analyst and columnist Mohamed Latif.

“His appointment also served as assurance that the government is committing to the peace deal with rebel groups.”

Borneo Bulletin 16 March 2021

South Sudan

Allies of South Sudan militias must be held accountable: UN human rights report

Military and political officials in South Sudan supporting community-based militias in the Greater Jonglei region, must be held accountable for violence that killed more than 700 people over a six-month period last year, the UN human rights office, OHCHR, said on Monday.

Between January and June 2020, organized and heavily-armed militias from the Dinka, Nuer and Muerle communities, carried out planned and coordinated attacks on villages across Jonglei and the Greater Pibor Administrative Area (GPAA), according to a joint report issued on Monday by the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and OHCHR.

“Six months after the last devastating attack in Greater Jonglei, it must be made clear that those key figures at both local and national levels, who deliberately fuelled and exploited localized tensions, will be held accountable”, said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet. 

“The risk that these community-based militias will reignite armed violence is too grave to ignore. It is of paramount importance that the Government takes effective steps to ensure that members of the security forces are prevented from supplying weapons from Government stocks to these militias,” she added.

UN News 15 March 2021

Security Council decides to maintain troops in South Sudan: sources

The UN Security Council on Friday approved a resolution allowing almost 3,000 more peacekeepers to deploy in the Central African Republic (CAR), which is still under threat from armed groups trying to overthrow the government.

Drawn up by France, the resolution was adopted by 14 out of 15 members of the Security Council, with just Russia, which has troops deployed in the country, abstaining, diplomatic sources said.

“We wanted [the] text to mention the UN guiding principles for humanitarian assistance,” said Dmitry Polyanskyi, Russian ambassador to the UN, who added that attempts by unnamed countries to “dilute the strictness of the parameters of humanitarian assistance is not acceptable.”

“Russia continues to be guided by the need for close coordination with the governments of the recipient countries in the delivery of humanitarian aid to their territory and distribution,” he said.

Global Times 15 March 2021

North Africa

Western Sahara

Refugees’ frustration drives renewed Western Sahara conflict

Generations of young Sahrawis have grown up in Algeria’s remote desert refugee camps largely forgotten by the outside world and now see no prospect of an independent homeland in Western Sahara except through a new war their leaders say has already begun.

Their fears that the quest for statehood had become a lost cause grew when US administration of former president Donald Trump recognised Morocco’s claims to the vast, sparsely populated territory in December.

“We have not received any peaceful results,” said Brahim, a Sahrawi man taking part in a recent parade by the group’s Polisario Front independence movement in Tindouf, close to Algeria’s border with Western Sahara.

“It’s why we must return to the armed struggle.”

Defence Web 02 March 2021

Morocco/Algeria: Western Sahara conflict shows signs of escalation

Tensions between Algeria and Morocco have never been as tense in 45 years. November 2020 unleashed pandora’s box following the military intervention in Guerguerat and Washington’s recognition of Rabat’s sovereignty over Western Sahara.

Since 13 November 2020, the day the Moroccan army “secured” several hundred metres of the paved road connecting the small village of Guerguerat and Mauritania, the former Spanish protectorate of Western Sahara has been kneeing deep in alternate history.

This literary and cinematic genre – currently all the rage, as demonstrated by the recent success of the Netflix period drama series Bridgerton – consists of re-imagining past historical events in fictional stories, creating a sort of alternate, counterfactual reality.

A case in point: the Polisario Front’s top brass send out triumphant daily reports that Algeria’s official press service, Algérie Presse Service, routinely pick up.

The African Report 02 March 2021

International Affairs Brief

Myanmar military extends martial law after bloodiest day since coup

Myanmar’s military has imposed martial law across more districts around the country following the deadliest day of protests since February’s coup.

About 50 people were reported killed when troops and police opened fire on protesters in various areas on Sunday. Most deaths were in Yangon.

Protesters are demanding the release of ousted civilian leader Aung San Kyi.

She heads the National League for Democracy (NLD) which saw a landslide victory in elections last November.

The military detained most of the NLD leadership after the coup, alleging voter fraud. No proof has been provided.

Ms Suu Kyi has been held at an unknown location since the 1 February coup. She is due to face a slew of charges her supporters say are fabricated.

On Monday, she was due to appear in court, but the virtual hearing was adjourned due to internet problems.

BBC News 15 March 2021

Death toll in weeks of Myanmar protests passes 180 -activist group

A total of 183 people have been killed by security forces in weeks of protests against the military coup in Myanmar, an activist group said on Monday.

At least 20 people were killed on Monday, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said. On Sunday, 74 people died – the bloodiest single day so far.

Protests have been taking place daily since the military overthrew elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Feb. 1 and installed a ruling junta. (Reporting by Reuters staff, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Daily Maverick 15 March 2021


Solidarity with the people of Palestine

By: Dr Lehlohonolo Kennedy Mahlatsi

The Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) is a tool for mobilising grassroots support on the global level for the Palestinian struggle for justice and to mobilise support for strategic boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaigns to help bring an end to the inhuman apartheid system.

This year it will be observed from the week of March 14 to March 21, to coincide with the South African Human Rights Day and the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

The problem started on November 2, 1917, when Arthur James Balfour approved the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, effectively pledging Britain’s support for Jewish statehood, sovereignty, and control of immigration in the whole of Palestine.

The overwhelming Arab majority of the population who constituted around 94% at that time were not mentioned in the Balfour Declaration except in an oblique way as the “existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.” They were described in terms of what they were not, and certainly not as a nation or a people—the words “Palestinian” and “Arab” do not appear in the sixty-seven words of the declaration.

IOL 14 March 2021

Palestine orders lockdown in West Bank amid virus surge

The Palestinian government has ordered a 5-day lockdown in the occupied West Bank as of Monday amid a surge in coronavirus cases.

In a statement, government spokesman Ibrahim Melhem said movement between Palestinian cities will be banned except for health workers.

The spokesman said schools and colleges will remain closed.

The restrictions do not include the Gaza Strip, which is ruled by Palestinian group Hamas.

Palestinian health authorities confirmed 27 deaths and 1,784 new infections from COVID-19 on Saturday, taking the tally in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip to 234,449 cases, including 2,494 fatalities.

Anadolu Agency 14 March 2021