News Briefs 18 February 2022

Southern Africa Focus:

Hope fades for voters in Zimbabwe

As Zimbabwe heads to elections in 2023, there is little to suggest that any party has the wherewithal to dislodge Zanu-PF from power. This is despite an economy that has been in the gutters for decades, widely blamed on 42 years of the ruling party’s mismanagement, first under long-term leader Robert Mugabe and, since 2017, under his successor, President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

The hope that was lit in 1999 when Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) came on the scene and quickly gathered a large urban following, grabbing control of the major cities in the 2000 parliamentary elections — although it still lost to Zanu-PF overall — has all but been extinguished. In the wake of successive electoral defeats, infighting has rocked the party, some of it apparently engineered by the ruling party, resulting in splintered, largely ineffective groups.

Some Zimbabweans still hold out hope that the Coalition of Citizens for Change (CCC), an MDC breakaway led by Tsvangirai’s successor, Nelson Chamisa, might achieve the miraculous feat that has eluded all parties for more than four decades and oust Zanu-PF. But for many, like street vendor Timothy Mkhwebu, there is little to suggest a change in the status quo any time soon.

Mail& Guardian 18 February 2022

Work or you’re out: Zimbabwe threat to striking teachers

The Zimbabwe government says teachers and education officials who do not report for duty will be deemed to have resigned.

Teachers in the country have been on strike amid the start of a new school term demanding the government pay them in US dollars.

Teachers in Zimbabwe on average earn ZWL$21,000. The teachers’ union said their members could no longer afford the commute from their homes to the classroom. The government offered teachers a 20% pay increase and other incentives, such as free school fees for their children, but the teachers rejected the offer as insufficient.

In a statement, the Public Service Commission (PSC) said such behaviour by teachers to continue to absent themselves from work, with some reporting for duty but not working, “cannot be tolerated as it will have a lasting, negative impact on an entire generation”.

TimesLive 17 February 2022


Eswatini prison officers assault, threaten to shoot reporter covering pro-democracy protest

Authorities in Eswatini must immediately investigate the brutal assault by correctional officers on Nomthandazo Maseko, a reporter for the privately owned news website Swati Newsweek, and hold those responsible to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday.

At noon on February 8, about 20 correctional services staff in Matsapha, a town about 22 miles from the capital Mbabane, assaulted the journalist, according to Maseko and her editor, Eugene Dube, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app, and a report by her employer. Maseko was assaulted after livestreaming a protest on Swati Newsweek’s Facebook page by members of the Swaziland Liberation Movement (Swalimo) activist group outside the local prison where two pro-democracy members of parliament have been detained since their arrest on July 25, 2021.

When officers spotted her in her car, they hauled her out, slapped, kicked, beat her with sticks, and an unidentified officer pointed a gun at her and threatened to shoot, Maseko told CPJ, adding that she lost her two cell phones during the beating.

Committee to Protect Journalist 16 February 2022

The long walk from absolute monarchy to democracy in Swaziland/Eswatini

In the second article in a series on how activists across southern Africa use the law to protect and advance human rights, Maverick Citizen looks at the challenges facing human rights lawyers in Swaziland/Eswatini, a country where a constitutional Bill of Rights and justice system play second fiddle to an absolute monarchy.

In June 2021, Swaziland/Eswatini was engulfed by a popularly supported uprising for democracy and human rights. The uprising involved students, women, trade unions and people from rural areas. Activists claim that more than 80 protesters were killed by the police and army. The protests and killings have been documented in The Unthinkable, a film made by the Swaziland Solidarity Forum that has been widely watched on YouTube. The film strengthened calls for justice.

In November 2021, President Cyril Ramaphosa visited Swaziland/Eswatini as part of the SADC Troika. After the meeting, King Mswati III committed to initiating a national dialogue to discuss the demands raised in the protests. This was yet to happen by early February 2022, and suggestions that it should form part of the king’s traditional Sibaya have been condemned by democracy activists.

Daily Maverick 9 February 2022

Democratic Republic of Congo

Ethnic militia kills 18 in eastern DR Congo: official

Eighteen people were killed on Tuesday in an attack in remote northeast DR Congo by CODECO, a notorious ethnic militia, a local official and a civilian campaigner said. Innocent Matukadala, head of the Banyali Kilo administrative area in Ituri province, told AFP that 18 people had been killed by “CODECO militiamen”. “People are angry. Tensions are high but we are trying to calm things down,” he said.

The assailants used “machetes, arrows, firearms. Seven children and six women were among the victims,” said Jean-Robert Basiloko, who represents civil society groups in Banyali Kilo. Concurring sources say that UN peacekeeping troops and humanitarian groups had left the area, located in Djugu territory, several weeks ago.

CODECO — the Cooperative for the Development of the Congo — is a political-religious sect that claims to represent the interests of the Lendu ethnic group. The Lendu and Hema communities have a long-standing feud that led to thousands of deaths between 1999 and 2003 before intervention by a European peacekeeping force.

eNCA 13 February 2022

‘Anything to stop the massacres’: peace still eludes DRC as armed groups proliferate

For the past three months, Ugandan forces have been bombarding Islamist rebels in its border region with the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The offensive, in the Rwenzori Mountain range that straddles both countries, has forced many Congolese to leave their homes and move to the cities for shelter.

Sarah Kasanga* is one. The Allied Democratic Force (ADF) militia stormed Kalingathe, her village north of Beni, in December 2019. People were made to lie on the floor while rebels searched homes for food, pots, money or clothes.

“They said they would take me and my younger sister and brother,” says Kasanga. “My mother started crying. They told her to be quiet and we’d be back after carrying their haul to the base.”

But that was a lie. Taking three boys and two girls, the group of 20 ADF fighters spent two months weaving through the forest to their camp.

The Guardian 11 February 2022

Central Africa and the Horn


Exclusive: Voting delays risk starving Somalia of budget funds, says IMF

A key IMF-supported programme funding military wages and other essential services in Somalia could expire in May if there are any further delays to elections, the chief International Monetary Fund representative in the country said.

Riven by civil war since 1991, the impoverished Horn of Africa nation has paid its bills since 2017 thanks to the IMF as it slowly rebuilds its institutions despite a ferocious Islamist insurgency.

The current three-year budget programme, worth nearly $400 million, is also a required part of a deal to slash Somalia’s debt from more than $5 billion to around a 10th of that.

But the programme will terminate automatically if a new government is not in place to conclude a review of it by May 17, Laura Jaramillo, the IMF mission chief for Somalia, told Reuters.

“It will impact the government’s functioning and could have broader implications,” she said, referring to the risk that much-delayed elections are not completed in time to renew the deal.

Reuters 18 February 2022

UN: Hunger crisis threatens half of Somalia’s young children

Severe drought risks pushing nearly half of Somali children under five into acute malnutrition this year, with hundreds of thousands needing life-saving treatment, according to the United Nations, which called for urgent action.

“Malnutrition has reached crisis levels,” Victor Chinyama, head of communications for the UN children’s agency UNICEF’s Somalia operations, said on Tuesday.

“The time to act is now,” he told reporters in Geneva via video-link, cautioning that “if you wait until things get worse, or until famine is declared, it may be too late.”

As the Horn of Africa region grapples with its worst drought in decades, Somalia has been hardest hit, with the UN warning that 4.1 million people – a quarter of the Somali population – need urgent food aid.

Aljazeera 15 February 2022

Central African Republic

Central African PM Replaced Amid Tensions Over Russia, France Rival Factions

The Central African Republic’s prime minister has been sacked against the backdrop of tensions between pro-Russian and pro-French factions within the government in Bangui.

Henri-Marie Dondra was named prime minister in June 2021, shortly after Paris froze budgetary aid to Bangui, accusing it of “complicity” in what Paris called a Russian “disinformation” campaign against the country’s former colonial ruler France.

According to a spokesman for the Presidency, Dondra was reportedly “fired” and replaced by his economy minister, Felix Moloua, confirming a weekend report by online news website Africa Intelligence.

The move came as CAR President Faustin-Archange Touadera was attending an African Union summit in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

AllAfrica 9 February 2022


Sudan: Burhan dismisses sanctions threats, lauds ties with Israel

Sudan’s military leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan has made comments in which he dismissed Western threats of sanctions tied to protests in the country and discussed meetings between Sudanese and Israeli officials he said were for security cooperation, not politics.

In his first interview on state television since the coup, Burhan said on Saturday that Washington was receiving inaccurate information.

He also lauded ties with Israel, saying intelligence sharing between the two former adversaries helped arrest suspected fighters in his country.

Protesters have been on the streets for months since Burhan led a military coup in October last year that ended a civilian-military partnership that was meant to lead to democratic elections, a move that was also widely condemned by the international community.

Aljazeera 13 February 2022

At least one killed in Sudan protests against military rule

Sudanese security forces have killed a protester in the capital, Khartoum, an independent group of medics has said, as thousands of people take to the streets to reject military rule and demand the release of prisoners.

Sudanese security forces fired tear gas as protesters rallied against the October 25 military takeover led by army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. Demonstrators in the capital Khartoum and its twin city of Omdurman also demanded the release of several political figures and pro-democracy activists arrested amid a crackdown on opposition groups.

“A male protester whose identity is yet to be known, has been killed by a cartridge in the neck & chest, fired by security forces while participating in today’s anti-coup march in Khartoum city,” the Central Committee of Sudan Doctors (CCSD) said in a statement on Monday.

The latest death takes the number of civilians killed in the crackdown since last year’s coup to at least 80, it added.

Aljazeera 14 February 2022

South Sudan

South Sudan: Sharp decline in violence against civilians

Reported incidents of violence against civilians fell by around 42 per cent in 2021 compared with the previous year, according to a new report released by the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) on Thursday.

The UNMISS Human Rights Division’s annual brief on violence affecting civilians, documented 3,414 civilian victims subjected to killing, injury, abduction, and conflict-related sexual violence, out of 982 recorded cases.

Mostly male victims

Some 75 per cent of the victims were men, while 14 per cent of cases involved women, and 11 per cent, children.

This compares with 5,850 civilian victims documented in 2020. Cases of conflict-related sexual violence declined slightly from 211 in 2020, to 194 in 2021, but remained “unacceptably high”, said UNMISS in its press release. 17 February 2022

Hemetti discusses peace implementation with South Sudan’s Kiir, Marchr

Mohamed Hamdan Daglo “Hemetti” Sudan’s Deputy Chairman of the Sovereign Council arrived Tuesday in Juba for talks with the South Sudanese officials on the implementation of the revitalized peace agreement and bilateral relations.

Hemetti met with President Salva Kiir and his First Deputy Riek Machar to assess the implementation process of the revitalized peace pact.

After the meeting, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, Minister of Presidential affairs told reporters that the South Sudanese president and the visiting Sudanese official discussed issues pertaining to the peace implementation.

President Salva Kiir Mayardit has invited Mohamed Hamdan Daglo to attend the Presidency meeting that will be held Wednesday, in the Office of the President to discuss issues pertaining to peace and security in both South Sudan and Sudan,” he further said.

Sudan Tribune 15 February 2022

North Africa and the Sahara

Western Sahara

EU Says Position on Western Sahara Unchanged

The European Union reiterated Wednesday that its position remains unchanged regarding the status of Western Sahara, saying none of the EU states recognizes the self-declared Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) announced by the Polisario front in 1976.

Responding to a question about whether an invitation could be extended to the separatists to take part in the European Union-African Union summit, which opens Thursday in Brussels, the EU Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Peter Stano, stated that the EU did not invite the Polisario.

The EU is co-organizing the summit with the AU, and each organization is responsible for inviting its members. It is therefore the African Union that has taken responsibility for inviting its members.

The EU could not interfere in the AU’s decisions with regard to its members.

Stano said that the AU gesture “does not change the position of the European Union.”

Asharq Al-Awsat 17 February 2022