News Briefs 17 May 2019

Democratic Republic of Congo

‘Terrifying’ Ebola epidemic out of control in DRC, say experts

An Ebola epidemic in a conflict-riven region of Democratic Republic of Congo is out of control and could become as serious as the outbreak that devastated three countries in west Africa between 2013 and 2016, experts and aid chiefs have warned.

New cases over the past month have increased at the fastest rate since the outbreak began last year, as aid agencies struggle to enact a public health response in areas that have suffered decades of neglect and conflict, with incredibly fragile health systems and regular outbreaks of deadly violence involving armed groups.

“I’m very concerned – as concerned as one can be,” said Jeremy Farrar, the head of the Wellcome Trust, who called for a ceasefire to allow health teams to reach the sick and protect others in the community.

“Whether it gets to the absolute scale of west Africa or not, none of us know, but this is massive in comparison with any other outbreak in the history of Ebola and it is still expanding. It’s remarkable it hasn’t spread more geographically but the numbers are frightening and the fact that they are going up is terrifying.”

The Guardian

Red Cross Warns Underfunding Could Hamstring DRC Ebola Response

The Red Cross warned Thursday that critical underfunding could force it to cut vital work to rein in the deadly Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo at a time when case numbers are soaring.

Without more funds, it would need to begin “dramatically” scaling back its operations within two weeks, Emanuele Capobianco, health director of the International Federation of the Red Cross told reporters in Geneva.

The organisation leads efforts to safely bury victims of the disease, which spreads through contact with blood and other bodily fluids.

“The situation is serious,” said Capobianco.



President Speaks About Key Issues

Somali president, Mohamed Abdullahi has reiterated the government’s position to accept elections delay in Somalia amid some regional state lobby for the extension of their mandate term.

Speaking at the ceremony to mark the 76th anniversary of Somali Youth League Anniversary, the president said ruled out any extension beyond the mandated term of the government.

He stated that the elections of federal and regional state levels will be held as per its schedule.

The president expressed his objection to the delay of elections in Galmudug state saying it will lead distrust.


Somalia-Turkey ties will triumph despite the murder of a Turkish citizen

Turkey’s economic, humanitarian and nation-building efforts in Somalia have forged a bond that cannot be derailed by terror attacks.

On Sunday, the Al Qaeda-affiliated Al Shabaab group killed a Turkish citizen in the Somali capital Mogadishu. The victim, a construction engineer, working for a Turkish company in Somalia, was mercilessly blown up when explosives planted in his car exploded.

Al Shabaab later claimed responsibility for the targeted assassination. Beyond the personal tragedy, this incident illustrates bilateral relations between Somalia and Turkey.

Turkey is among the very few international actors who believed in Somalia’s success and have subsequently invested in Somalia’s development. In August 2011, Ankara launched its most extensive overseas humanitarian campaign to avert a devastating famine that killed around 260,000 people in the Horn of the African nation.

TRT World

Central African Republic

ICC postpones hearing of Central African Republic case to September

The International Criminal Court postponed the beginning of the confirmation hearing in the case of alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Central African Republic from June 18 to September 19, 2019.

The decision was made following a request by the Office of the Prosecutor in order to ensure the protection of victims and witnesses.

The accused in the case are Alfred Yekatom and Patrice-Edouard Ngaïssona.

Yekatom and Ngaïssona are accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in various locations in the Central African Republic between December 5, 2013, and December 2014.

Yekatom was allegedly commanding a group of around 3,000 members which operated within the Anti-Balaka movement. Ngaïssona was the most senior leader and the “National General Coordinator” of the Anti-Balaka.

CGTN Africa

AfDB Offers 98 Billion Fcfa

After rounding off his visit to Congo Brazzaville over the weekend, the President of the African Development Bank, AfDB, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, was in the Central African Republic, CAR on May 12, 2019, agency reports said. During talks with President Faustin Archange Touadera and Prime Minister Firmin Ngrébada, Adesina announced that his institution was offering CAR 168 million US dollars (98 billion FCFA) for the development of several sectors, including infrastructure, energy, water and capacity building. He felicitated President Touadera and PM Ngrébada on the February 5, 2019 Khartoum, Sudan, Peace Accord signed by the government and 14 armed groups.

Cameroon Tribune


Sudan military rulers suspend talks with protesters for 72 hours

Sudan’s pro-democracy protesters said on Thursday the ruling military council’s suspension of talks was a “regrettable” setback to efforts to forge a new democratic era following the overthrow of long-time leader Omar al-Bashir.

The Transitional Military Council (TMC) and protest leaders had been expected to come to an agreement on Wednesday over the make-up of a new body to govern Sudan for three years.

But in the early hours of Thursday, the chief of Sudan’s ruling military council, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, announced the talks had been suspended for 72 hours as the security in the capital had deteriorated.


Sudan faces massacre if AU doesn’t take action – civil society organisations

Seventeen African and Sudanese civil society organisations have sent a joint letter of appeal to the African Union urging urgent action be taken following the attacks on peaceful protesters in the Sudanese capital Khartoum by the military as talks on a new transitional authority stall.

“The protestors are in need of immediate protection and the AU needs to take swift and firm action,” said Thursday’s letter to representatives of the AU Peace and Security Council Member States and Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC) Moussa Faki.

“We are extremely concerned that the (recent) breakthrough is now in jeopardy following the announcement to put the talks on hold and that further delays will only allow for more attacks and a massacre may be witnessed,” said the civil society organisations.


South Sudan

South Sudan sacks 40 overseas diplomats for going AWOL

South Sudan said on Thursday it had sacked 40 overseas diplomats for not showing up for work, some of them for years.

The foreign ministry in Juba said it had tried in vain “to engage with these diplomats who went Absent Without Appointed Leave (AWOL) over the past few months and years”, including some posted to embassies in the United States and United Kingdom.

None had replied or returned home after finishing their postings – prompting their mass firing in a terse memo issued by the foreign ministry.

“Unfortunately, the ministry was left with no choice but to let these diplomats go, following fruitless attempts to convince these diplomats to return to work in Juba,” the ministry said in a statement Wednesday.


South Sudan’s Kiir warns against planned protests

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir on Wednesday warned against planned protests, saying any forceful attempts to seize power in the country would be met with “violent resistance”.

In the past two weeks, a new group calling itself the Red Card Movement has been circulating calls online for a protest on Thursday with the hashtags #KiirMustGo and #SouthSudanUprising, with organisers appearing to be based mostly in the diaspora.

The movement appears to be inspired by street protests in neighbouring Sudan which led to the toppling of veteran president Omar al-Bashir.

“Violent attempts to usurp power from the people would be met with violent resistance and the cycle of violence cannot end,” Kiir told a press briefing.

Africa News

Western Sahara

Polisario case reveals high stakes behind investors’ ESG enthusiasm

What the military calls asymmetric warfare — guerrillas fighting regular armies — has come to the compliance world. Political movements with few financial assets, let alone military superiority, can win in court against corporate or government players. Thanks to their ability to make use of their wins by influencing trillions of investors’ money, or sensitive sovereign wealth funds, they can generate a huge effect.

Take a case filed in the European Court of Justice on April 29 by the Polisario Front, a political group that demands full sovereignty for Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara. Its lawyers claim Brussels is violating EU human rights law by allowing, even encouraging, the import of natural resources from the territory.

If Polisario wins the first round of its case against the European Council, it and its allies around the world could file lawsuits against companies and institutions doing business with Morocco, which says it has sovereignty over Western Sahara.

Financial Times

Law Misused to Silence Reporters

Moroccan authorities are using a law designed to keep people from falsely claiming professional credentials to bring criminal charges against people trying to expose abuses, Human Rights Watch said today.

In the latest case, Nezha Khalidi, who is affiliated with the activist group Equipe Media in El-Ayoun, Western Sahara, will go on trial on May 20, 2019, accused of not meeting the requirements to call herself a journalist. Police arrested her on December 4, 2018, as she was livestreaming on Facebook a street scene in Western Sahara and denouncing Moroccan “repression.” She faces two years in prison if convicted.

“People who speak out peacefully should never have to fear prison for ‘pretending’ to be journalists,” said Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The authorities shouldn’t be using a law designed to keep an unqualified person from claiming to be a doctor, for example, to punish people whose commentary displeases them.”

Human Rights Watch


Prisoners in Swaziland Jail Face Beatings and Humiliation From Warders, Former Inmate Reports

Prisoners in jails in Swaziland / eSwatini routinely face illegal beatings from warders and constant humiliations, according to testimony from a former inmate at Sidwashini Correctional Facility.

The 27-year-old, a prodemocracy activist charged with terrorism offences in the kingdom ruled by absolute monarch King Mswati III, reported being ‘beaten and tortured’.

He spent four years at Sidwashini, in the Swazi capital Mbabane, before a judge acquitted and discharged him in 2014.

The man’s experience was reported by Prison Insider, which publishes testimonials from people who have been or are currently in prison.


Bank Ruling Another Blow for Media Freedom

Swaziland (now Eswatini) is hardly known as a land where transparency and free speech enjoy much value. Now the country’s High Court has helped maintain this reputation with a decision effectively closing down media investigation into the people behind Eswatini’s new Farmers Bank.

In January 2019, the Central Bank of Eswatini brought an urgent application against the Times newspaper. Heard by Judge Nkosinathi Maseko, the application was intended to prevent the Times from using information contained in a confidential report on the licence application of Farmers Bank.

Investigative journalist Welcome Dlamini had obtained the report, prepared by the central bank’s financial regulation department, while he was working on a story about Farmers Bank. The central bank maintained that the law provided for strict security and confidentiality about all its business and that for an employee or former employee to have ‘leaked’ the document to the media was unlawful.



Investors wary of Zimbabwe army stake in platinum project

A plan to build Zimbabwe’s biggest platinum mine at a cost of about $4 billion is floundering because a military stake in the project has deterred potential backers, according to people familiar with the funding discussions.

The African Export-Import Bank has the mandate to raise money for the mine, a joint venture between Russian and Zimbabwean investors. While the bank provided $192 million of its own funds, meetings in the past year with investors including South Africa’s Public Investment Corp., the continent’s biggest fund manager, failed to bring additional commitments, one of the people said, asking not to be identified because the talks are private.

Zimbabwe has the world’s third-largest reserves of platinum, palladium and related metals such as rhodium — which typically occur together — after South Africa and Russia. President Emmerson Mnangagwa is trying to lure investment to the country to help rebuild the economy, devastated during the 37-year rule of Robert Mugabe.

News Day

Zimbabwe set to rebase economy after adopting new currency

Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister announced the rebasing of the economy on Wednesday, following the adoption of a new currency earlier this year, and said growth would be slowed this year by a drought and a cyclone that hit eastern regions.

The economy grew higher than expected in 2018, Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube told parliament.

The central bank scrapped the peg between its quasi-currency bond note and electronic dollars against the U.S dollar in February and merged them into a single transitional currency called the RTGS dollar.

Rebasing the economy broadly means changing the reference points used to calculate the country’s gross domestic product.


Africa in General

Democratic Republic of Congo aid: EU provides further €5 million

The EU has announced it will distribute an additional €5 million in funding to support the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The newly announced funding brings the EU’s total Democratic Republic of Congo aid provision to €17 million since 2018 and is aimed at supporting efforts within the country to tackle its largest ever outbreak of Ebola, which has seen more than 1,000 recorded deaths to date. The funding will be distributed to the World Health Organisation and other partners to ensure provision of healthcare and increased efforts towards disease prevention; promote education and understanding of the disease among local communities; and provide Ebola survivors and affected families with both “social protection” and nutritional support.

Christos Stylianides, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management and the EU’s Ebola Coordinator, said: “The EU is committed to continue helping partners and the authorities fight Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo for as long as it takes. Since the outbreak last year, the EU has provided funding, experts, medical evacuation equipment, our humanitarian flight service and helped neighbouring countries. We are also supporting the health sector in the country and the development of Ebola vaccines and treatments. Yet the disease remains a serious threat and all must be done to curb the epidemic. Aid workers must also be free to do their lifesaving job without the threat of violence.”

Government Europa

Burundi Supreme Court orders seizure of assets of opponents in exile

The ruling applies to 32 politicians, rights campaigners and journalists living abroad, and also to nine military officers jailed in Burundi over a 2015 coup attempt, according to a statement by the prosecutor general and Supreme Court president.

Vital Nshimirimana, one of the opposition politicians in exile named in the ruling, said it made a mockery of Burundi’s judicial system.

“These are the people that the regime of Pierre Nkurunziza wanted to assassinate,” he tweeted about the people affected.

In the statement late on Wednesday, Prosecutor General Sylvestre Nyandwi said he had informed the registrar of land titles that buildings belonging to people on the list must be seized.

CGTN Africa

Uganda media in court after Bobi Wine coverage

Media groups are challenging a decision by the country’s communications regulator to remove dozens of senior journalists from their news management roles over coverage of music star turned politician Bobi Wine, whose real name is Kyagulanyi Ssentamu.

Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) on April 30 directed 13 media organisations to suspend 39 producers, editors and heads of news, and submit all news and live-streamed content aired the day before.

“On that day, Honorable Kyagulanyi was arrested, charged and taken to Luzira prison and media houses got those problems because of covering that,” said Charles James Ssenkubuge, one of the journalists suspended by the directive.


SADC heads of state invited to Ramaphosa’s inauguration at Loftus

The inter-ministerial committee planning the presidential inauguration on Thursday said all heads of state and governments of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have been invited to witness the “auspicious occasion” when the incoming president of South Africa will be sworn-in on May 25.

“The guests also include representatives from the continental regional economic blocks, former liberation movements, fraternal countries, the African Union, United Nations, members of the diplomatic corps and eminent persons and former presidents of the Republic. We have limited the invitation to the heads of state in line with our cost-cutting measures,” Minister in the Presidency Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

“Four-thousand-five-hundred guests have been invited from various sectors of society, including parliamentarians, the judiciary, ministers and deputy ministers, premiers, [members of the executive councils] MECs and executive mayors. We have also invited members of the diplomatic corps, religious sector, etc.”