News Briefs 17 January 2021


Zimbabwe journalist to spend weekend in jail after tweet

Zimbabwe police have re-arrested award-winning journalist and government critic Hopewell Chin’ono, as well as one of his defenders, for allegedly posting false information on social media, prosecutors and lawyers said.

Chin’ono was detained in July last year ahead of banned anti-graft and anti-government protests he backed through his Twitter account. He was charged with inciting public violence and released on bail one month later.

The journalist was behind bars again in November for allegedly obstructing justice after tweeting about a gold smuggling case involving political elites.  Another tweet landed Chin’ono back in jail on Friday, this time for sharing a video he claims shows a police officer beating a baby to death in the capital Harare.

“The accused published a false statement to members of the public,” said the request for remand form, adding that he had deliberately intended to “undermine the public confidence” in police officers.

eNCA 16 January 2021

Medical oxygen shortage in Zimbabwe as Covid-19 cases surge

Covid-19 patients in need of oxygen in Zimbabwe are in a dire situation as the country’s hospitals run critically short of medical oxygen.

Private medical suppliers are selling oxygen concentrators for between USD$2,000 (about R30,300) and USD $3,700 (about R56,000) — a price which is beyond the reach of many in Zimbabwe.

A medical supply specialist, Calvin Majora, tweeted: “We have run out of stock of oxygen concentrators, anyone with reasonably priced concentrators so that we give preference who need them at reasonable prices, we don’t want to be profiteering, help we have many people in urgent need.”

TimesLive 15 January 2021

Democratic Republic of Congo

Rebel attack kills at least 46 in eastern DR Congo

At least 46 people were killed on Thursday in a bloody attack by a rebel group in the northeastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a local official told Anadolu Agency.

The attack, perpetrated by elements of the Uganda rebel group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) targeted the chiefdom of Walese Vonkutu, a locality near the North Kivu province where the Congolese armed forces have been fighting the ADF rebellion for more than six years.

“We have been alerted of an ADF attack. They killed several pygmies. The latest information shows 46 dead,” Adio Gidi, the provincial interior minister in the gold-rich Ituri province, told Anadolu Agency.

A mission will be dispatched to the area on Friday to “determine the final toll,” he said, without giving further details.

Localities around Beni, Irumu, and Mambasa territory have become an ADF center of attacks for over a year.

Anadolu Agency 15 January 2021

Supporting War-Ravaged Health Centers in Eastern DRC

Violence and armed clashes continue to cause immense human suffering in several provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The DRC is one of the world’s poorest countries, due in large part to conflicts that have torn the country apart for much of the last 20 years. People here have faced unimaginable hardship – including displacement, separation from loved ones, exposure to disease, and the ongoing risk of injury or death due to violence.

In the province of South Kivu, people live with a deep sense of insecurity. According to a report published by UNICEF, more than 40,000 people – including 7,500 children under the age of five and more than 1,500 pregnant women – fled villages in the territories of Uvira, Fizi, and Mwenga between May and August 2020 due to the intensification of inter-ethnic conflicts. UNICEF estimates that 10 health centres were looted and rendered unusable during that period, while 18 others were abandoned by medical personnel fleeing the violence. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated these difficulties.

Florence Hamuli, a 19-year-old mother of two, says: “I was pregnant when I fled fighting between the armed groups in Bijombo. I walked for two days to get to Masango, where I am staying with a host family. My husband was killed and my house was burned down with all my belongings. I was desperate and I didn’t know what to do about my pregnancy because I knew I wouldn’t have the means to pay for my care on the day I was to give birth.”

Relief Web 15 January 2021


Somalia Urges Urgent Humanitarian Aid in Southwest

Somalia’s southwest state President Abdiaziz Hassan Mohamed Lafta Garen on Saturday urged the federal government, UN agencies and humanitarian partners to urgently intervene in Bakol province.

His request came after he visited Hudur, the capital of the Bakol region.

“Today I visited Hudur, and I appeal to the FGS [Federal Government of Somalia], UN Agencies and Humanitarian Partners, & Donors, for an urgent humanitarian intervention to save lives,” Hassan said \ on Twitter.

He said the region faces serious food insecurity because of the Somali-based Al-Qaeda affiliated militant group, al-Shabaab’s, blockade in recent years.

Government forces and regional soldiers are in control of major towns in the region but al-Shabaab controls the countryside which has caused a humanitarian crisis.

Humanitarian access has been further complicated by climatic events and the condition of infrastructure such as roads and bridges, according to the UN.

Anadolu Agency 17 January 2021

Somalia Will Reserve 30% of Parliament Seats for Women in Upcoming Election

Nearly a third of Somalia’s parliamentary seats will be reserved for female lawmakers in an election next month, the prime minister said, a measure long demanded by women’s rights campaigners in the Horn of Africa nation.

While welcoming Saturday’s announcement by Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble, some women’s groups cautioned that implementing the measure in time for the Feb. 8 poll would be challenging and depended on the commitment of clan leaders.

Somalia has been riven by civil war since 1991, and due to the fragile security situation, elections consist of clan delegates choosing members of parliament as opposed to a one-person, one-vote electoral system.

Roble made the quota pledge after talks with female lawmakers — who currently hold 24% of the 329 seats in Somalia’s lower and upper houses of parliament, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).

Global Citizen 12 January 2021

Central African Republic

Nearly 60,000 have fled Central African Republic violence: U.N.

The number of people fleeing violence in the Central African Republic has doubled in just a week to nearly 60,000, the U.N. refugee agency said on Friday, as post-electoral violence intensifies.

CAR’s government has been battling rebel groups seeking to overturn a Dec. 27 vote in which President Faustin-Archange Touadera was declared victor despite fraud claims.

“What’s clear is the situation has…worsened,” UNHCR spokesman Boris Cheshirkov told a U.N. briefing in Geneva.

“What we are hearing from (refugees) is some of them have been separated from loved ones, some have had loved ones killed, that the attacks have intensified,” he added.

When rebels moved on the capital Bangui on 13 January, 10,000 people arrived in a single day in the Democratic Republic of Congo across the Ubangui River, UNHCR said. Others have arrived in Cameroon, Chad and the Republic of Congo.

Sowetan 16 January 2021

UN peacekeeper killed in targeted attack in Central African Republic

A United Nations peacekeeper was killed and another suffered injuries in an attack in the Central Africa Republic (CAR), said United Nations secretary-general’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

In a statement, Dujarric said United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the attack against the convoy of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) on Friday near Tessalit in Kidal region.

Guterres emphasised that attacks against United Nations peacekeepers may constitute a war crime.

“The Secretary-General strongly condemns the attack against a convoy of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) that took place on 15 January 2021 near Tessalit in Kidal region, which resulted in the death of an Egyptian peacekeeper and serious injuries to another,” the statement read. “The Secretary-General expresses his deepest condolences to the bereaved family, as well as to the people and Government of Egypt. He wishes a speedy and full recovery to the injured peacekeeper,” the statement added.

IOL 16 January 2021


Clashes leave dozens dead in Sudan’s Darfur

Clashes between Arabs and non-Arabs in Sudan’s West Darfur have killed at least 32 people, according to a local medical official, as Sudanese authorities imposed a round-the-clock curfew on the province.

Salah Saleh, a doctor and former medical director at the main hospital in the provincial capital of Genena, said on Saturday the clashes wounded at least 79 others.

“It’s horrible,” he said. “Until now, people cannot reach any hospitals.”

Salah warned that the casualty toll was likely much higher.

The violence erupted on Friday in Genena, when an Arab man was stabbed to death at a market in the Krinding camp for internally displaced people, aid worker al Shafei Abdalla told The Associated Press.

He said the suspect was arrested.

TRT World 17 January 2021

Covid-19’s second wave hits Sudan harder and faster

While people celebrated the new year in Khartoum, the state’s ministry of health recorded 134 new cases of Covid-19 and seven deaths, according to its director, Mahjoub Taj el-Sir. The state’s increasing infection rate is a worrying trend, the director says, because Khartoum state — like the rest of Sudan — is still woefully ill-prepared to contend with the second wave of the virus.

The second wave of the coronavirus has hit Sudan twice as fast, with about the same number of cases and deaths reported in almost half the time of the first wave, according to federal ministry of health data. During the first two weeks of October, the average daily number of cases reported was fewer than 10. This increased to more than 100 cases every day by mid-November, and reached 200 to 300 cases daily by early December.

According to Taj el-Sir, the high infection rates require “the sounding of the alarm”, with the capital struggling with the highest infection rates across Khartoum state. By 23 December, Sudan’s Central Doctors Committee reported that more than 35 physicians had died during the second wave of the pandemic, calling it “a heavy loss for the entire medical field in the country”.

Mail& Guardian 12 January 2021

South Sudan

Roughly 60% of South Sudan’s population face severe hunger by the middle of next year, the government and UN agencies warned Friday, calling for urgent assistance to address the growing crisis.

In a new joint report, they also said that 1.4 million children face acute malnutrition in the conflict-ravaged eastern African nation.

“The food security situation and nutrition situation has deteriorated,” Isaiah Chol Aruai, chairperson of South Sudan’s National Bureau of Statistics, said in the capital Juba as he released the country’s latest hunger assessment.

“This is because of pockets of insecurity that have led to population displacement, low crop production because of climate shocks such as floods and drought,” he said, also pointing to the COVID-19 pandemic, an economic crisis, desert locust infestation, and “inadequate” humanitarian aid.

EWN 18 December 2020

South Sudan ‘ready to mediate between Sudan, Ethiopia’ to end border conflict

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir has expressed readiness to mediate between Sudan and Ethiopia to end their border conflict, said Sudan’s Sovereign Council on Thursday.

Chairman of Sudan’s Sovereign Council Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan on Thursday met with Tut Gatluak, South Sudan’s presidential adviser on security affairs, who conveyed a verbal message from Kiir, the council said in a statement.

“President Salva Kiir has expressed readiness to mediate between Sudan and Ethiopia to reach a political and diplomatic solution according to the recognised international borders in preservation of the fraternal ties between the two countries and the peace in the region,” Gatluak was quoted by the statement as saying. 

Al-Burhan underlined “the friendly and fraternal solution” for the border dispute with Ethiopia, Gatluak added. Since September 2020, the Sudan-Ethiopia border has been witnessing rising tensions and skirmishes between the two sides.

The East African 15 January 2021

Western Sahara

US Launches Work on Consulate in Disputed Western Sahara

The United States on Sunday started the “process of establishing” a consulate in contested Western Sahara, after Washington recognised Morocco’s sovereignty there in exchange for Rabat normalising ties with Israel.

US ambassador David Fischer visited the port of Dakhla, 1,440 kilometres southwest of Rabat in the far south of Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara, to mark the start of work on a diplomatic office.

“It is such an honour for me to visit this stunningly beautiful and critically important region of Morocco, and to begin the process of establishing a US diplomatic presence here,” Fischer said, according to the US embassy.

Western Sahara is a disputed and divided former Spanish colony, mostly under Morocco’s control, where tensions with the pro-independence Polisario Front have simmered since the 1970s.

EWN 10 January 2021

Lesotho position on Western Sahara hailed

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune this week dispatched an envoy to thank Lesotho for its support on the matter of the independence of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (Western Sahara).

SADR is Africa’s last colony, with its people living under Moroccan imperialism, and Algeria is one of the foremost proponents for independence of the nation.

Several Southern African countries – among them Namibia and Zimbabwe – have been very vocal about granting the people of SADR their independence.

Lesotho’s new government, inaugurated last May, speedily reversed the preceding administration’s “constructive neutrality” on SADR and stated its opposition to the continued colonisation of the country.

Lesotho’s previous position was at odds with that of the African Union and the Southern African Development Community, which both support SADR’s self-determination.

The Southern Times 16 January 2021