News Briefs: 18 November 2016
Democratic Republic of Congo
UN delegates visit amid political turmoil
Members of the UN Security Council are slated to visit the Democratic Republic of Congo on Friday amid mounting international concern about increased violence and political unrest in the troubled Central African nation.
President Joseph Kabila’s two terms in office are due to end December 19. But it remains unclear whether he will step down then and, if so, who might take charge.
Members of a UN-backed group agreed last month to push back elections originally due in November to April 2018, but the process has been criticized for not legitimately involving opposition, as virtually all opposition parties boycotted the process.
Democratic Republic of Congo Prime Minister resigns
Augustin Matata Ponyo said on Monday he had resigned as prime minister of Democratic Republic of Congo in line with a political deal that extends Joseph Kabila’s tenure as president.
Kabila was due to step down on Dec. 19 but his ruling coalition and part of the opposition agreed last month to delay a presidential vote until April 2018, citing logistical problems in registering millions of voters and a lack of financing.
“I have just handed in my resignation and that of my government to the president of the republic in line with the spirit of the political accord signed on October 18,” Matata said.
Just a few weeks after the Norwegian authorities said they will send refugees back to Somalia, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has urged Norway to change its mind.
In October, Immigration Minister Sylvi Listhaug said that the Norwegian government had concluded that the situation in Somalia has settled down and that 1,600 Somali refugees living in Norway should have their refugee status revoked.
In a letter dated November 7th, but first reported on Wednesday night, the UNHCR wrote to the Norwegian government and said that the security situation in Mogadishu was far too unstable to warrant Norway’s decision. Just two days before the letter was sent, a car bomb attack near the Somali parliament building in Mogadishu killed at least two police officers, with some reports indicating that up to 20 people were killed.
Somalia regional ‘electoral colleges’ elect 76 MPs
Thousands of Somali delegates in five Somali state capitals have elected a total of 76 MPs of the House of the People, commonly referred to as the Lower House of Federal Parliament.
The elections kicked off earlier this month, as part of Somalia’s indirect electoral process agreed upon by federal and state leaders. According to the electoral model, some 14,000 “electoral college” delegates – 51 voters per seat of the 275-member Lower House – will elect MPs at polling sites in the state capitals – Garowe, Kismayo, Baidoa, Adado and Jowhar.
A presidential election was postponed twice to November 30th, but delays in the formation of the Lower House could potentially push the presidential election back another month, according to sources familiar with electoral developments.
Central African Republic
Brussels conference to play ‘significant role’ in supporting Central African Republic’s recovery – Security Council
Ahead of tomorrow’s Brussels conference for the Central African Republic (CAR), the United Nations Security Council emphasized the “significant role” the gathering will play in expressing the firm political support of international community and to secure essential resources to assist the country to implement key recovery and stabilization priorities over the next three to five years.
Through a Presidential Statement agreed this evening, the Council also welcomed the recent visit of UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson to CAR ahead of the international conference. Mr. Eliasson will participate in the Conference, co-organized by the European Union (EU), the CAR Government, the World Bank and the UN. It aims to raise funds for recovery and peacebuilding initiatives in CAR.
Justice and reconciliation key to lasting peace, UN expert says
The justice system in the Central African Republic (CAR) must be urgently strengthened if the country is to achieve lasting peace, a United Nations human rights expert has said, ahead of a major donors’ conference in Brussels, Belgium, tomorrow, which aims to raise funds in support of the country’s national peace-building plan.
“Truth and reconciliation are also critical,” the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in CAR, Marie-Thérèse Keita-Bocoum, said in a news release from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
Due to clashes between the mainly Muslim Séléka rebel coalition and anti-Balaka militia, which are mostly Christian, the country plunged into a civil conflict in 2013. Despite significant progress and successful elections, the CAR has remained in the grip of instability and sporadic unrest. More than 13,000 UN staff are currently based there as part of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the country, known as MINUSCA.
Sudan: ‘Serious Threat to Peace’ – Security Council Extends Mandate for Abyei
The mandate of the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (Unisfa) was extended until 15 May 2017 on Tuesday, by the UN Security Council which recognised that the situation along the Sudan-South Sudan border remains a serious threat to international peace and security.
Unanimously adopting resolution 2318 (2016), the 15-member organ reiterated its demand for Sudan and South Sudan to urgently establish an Abyei Area Administration and Council, as well as a police service that would take over policing functions throughout the area, including the protection of oil infrastructure.
Sudan’s Bashir describes South Sudan as ‘enemy’
President Omar al-Bashir on Sunday described the South Sudanese government as Sudan’s “enemy”, in a sign of growing tensions over slow implementation of the joint agreements between the two countries.
Addressing the force of the Sudanese Intelligence on Sunday, President Bashir said that South Sudan is still targeting his country and that it does want to implement the 2012 Joint Cooperation Agreements signed by the two countries.
Separately, the Sudanese leader stressed that any peace agreement signed with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-North) would not include the integration of its fighters in the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), saying the SPLA-North rebels are still part of South Sudan army.
South Sudan opposition fractured by infighting
As the protracted conflict in South Sudan between the followers of President Salva Kiir, and the armed supporters of former Vice President and opposition leader, Dr Riek Machar, grinds on, new intra-fighting between factions of the opposition is adding another complication to any possibility of peace.
Gunmen from Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO) have withdrawn from Nhialdiu, a key town in oil-rich Unity state, which borders Sudan, after briefly capturing it.
The Sudan Tribune has reported that the withdrawal from Nhialdiu, and its subsequent recapture by government troops, cast doubt on the possibility of resuming oil production in the area due to the ongoing conflict and the town being in a war zone.
UN warns of mass atrocities in war-torn South Sudan
The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned of the “risk of mass atrocities” in South Sudan, should renewed violence in the world’s youngest nation continue.
In a report released Wednesday, Ki-moon said the UN peacekeepers must be prepared to protect innocent civilians.
“There is a very real risk of mass atrocities being committed in South Sudan, particularly following the sharp rise in hate speech and ethnic incitement in recent weeks,” said the UN Secretary General.
“It must be clearly understood that United Nations peacekeeping operations do not have the appropriate manpower or capabilities to stop mass atrocities,” he added.
Western Sahara – Ban Ki-Moon Stresses Need to Push Forward UN Process
Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon called, in Marrakesh, to push forward the process of the United Nations for the settlement of the conflict in Western Sahara, in accordance with the resolutions of the Security Council.
“Ban Ki-moon underlined the need to push forward the process of negotiations in Western Sahara as expected in the relevant resolutions of the Security Council,” said the United Nations in a statement published at the end of the meeting of the head of the United Nations and the King of Morocco Mohamed VI in Marrakesh, on the sidelines of the COP22.
The resumption of negotiations was required by the Security Council which underlined in its resolution (2285) of 2016, extending the mandate of MINURSO until 2017, the need to continue the process of preparation for a fifth round of negotiations on the final statute of Western Sahara.
Western Sahara and Morocco: Tension reemerges
Western Sahara opposes the bid of King Mohammed VI to rejoin the African Union and accuses Morocco of unlawfully occupying territory that does not belong to it.
After Spain withdrew its colonial forces in 1975, Morocco sent troops to the area and annexed two-thirds of Western Sahara based on historical claims that the region was originally part of its territory. When the African Union recognized Western Sahara as an independent country in 1984, Morocco withdrew its membership. However, king Mohammed VI has recently applied to rejoin the AU and had been touring African countries to raise support for his request.
World Bank $35 Million Supports Drought Affected Households in the South November 10, 2016
The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved a $35 million grant for the Social Safety Net Project to support the Government’s response to the drought in the South of Madagascar. This additional financing will benefit more than 320,000 people in the five most affected districts and help them recover from the effects of the drought caused by El Niño. It fits within the emergency and early recovery strategy prepared by the Government with the support of the United Nations.
The population of the South has suffered through several successive years of poor crop yields starting with a major locust invasion in 2013. As a result of the El Niño, rainfall has been about 75 percent lower than the average of the last 20 years, causing harvest losses of up to 95 percent, over 1 million people to be food insecure, 35,000 children under 5 to suffer from moderate acute malnutrition and another 12,000 from severe acute malnutrition.
King Mohammed VI to Visit Ethiopia Beginning Friday, then Madagascar
King Mohammed VI is heading to Addis Ababa by Friday, November 18 before heading to Madagascar for the International Francophone Organization Summit, reports Le360 Afrique.
The monarch spent a brief period of time in Marrakech to attend the COP22 and preside over the African Summit that was part of the climate change conference and attended by many African heads of state.
King Mohammed VI is now on his way to completing his tour of the continent, beginning with Ethiopia and then onto Madagascar, where the International Francophone Organization Summit is set to take place on November 26 and 27.
Morocco World News
The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by Swaziland’s absolute monarch King Mswati III, is running a campaign of misinformation against Asians in the kingdom.
It has now claimed that 600,000 people in Swaziland are of Asian origin (14 October 2016). A website called countrymeters that constantly updates statistics recorded Swaziland’s total population on Wednesday (19 October 2016) as 1,312,881.
That would mean that about 45 percent of the entire Swazi population were of Asian origin. In fact, every reputable source shows that 97 percent of Swazi people are African. The sources include the CIA factbook and indexmundi.
Swaziland High Court to Determine Constitutionality of Common Law Marital Power Rule
This Morning, the High Court of Swaziland will hear arguments in Sacolo and Another v Sacolo and Others, a case concerning the validity of the common law marital power which denies married women the right to contract, administer property, and sue or be sued in court. The case also concerns a challenge to sections 24 and 25 of the Marriage Act 1964 which imposes on African spouses the customary consequences of marriage while granting to non-African spouses the common law consequences of marriage.
“The time has come for Swaziland to scrap its common law marital power rule and section 24 and 25 of the Marriage Act to bring it in line with the rights guaranteed under its Constitution and international law,” states Brigadier Siachitema, Women’s Land and Property Rights Programme Lawyer at the Southern Africa Litigation Centre.
IMF lifts sanctions against Zimbabwe – report
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has lifted sanctions against Zimbabwe after the southern African country settled its arrears, a report said on Tuesday.
According to New Zimbabwe, the IMF confirmed on Monday that it had removed the remedial measures against the country.
The IMF, however, maintained that the move did not mean that it would consider new requests for funding from President Robert Mugabe’s administration.
The international lending institution said that Mugabe should implement the reforms first and also repay other international creditors, including the World Bank, and the African Development Bank (AfDB).
Zim 2018 polls: Come home if you want to vote, diasporans told
As one Zimbabwean editor put it: “This does not look good people.”
Zimbabwe’s three million or so diasporans almost certainly won’t be allowed to vote in the 2018 elections unless they come home twice – once to register, once again to vote, according to reports on Wednesday.
That’s despite a provision in the new constitution guaranteeing all Zimbabwean citizens the right to vote.* Three years after the constitution was adopted at a referendum, the electoral law has still not been aligned with the constitution – which is why, as it stands, Zimbabwean voters based outside the country will have their vote denied.
Africa in General
‘Don’t go!’ ICC officials appeal to African defectors
“Don’t go!” That was the heartfelt appeal to African nations as the International Criminal Court opened its annual meeting Wednesday under the cloud of a wave of unprecedented defections.
Gambia on Monday formally notified the United Nations that it was withdrawing from the court, following in the wake of South Africa and Burundi.
“Don’t go,” pleaded Senegalese politician Sidiki Kaba, the president of the ICC’s Assembly of State Parties meeting in The Hague.
“In a world criss-crossed by violent extremism… it is urgent and necessary to defend the ideal of justice for all,” he said.
DRC president defies growing calls to resign
Congolese President Joseph Kabila on Tuesday defied calls to step down when his term ends next month and vowed during remarks to lawmakers to defend his government against violent overthrow.
His defiant speech to parliament came as criticism grows following a controversial deal between the government and fringe opposition groups that effectively extends the president’s term in office and delays elections until late 2017.
The deal agreed last month followed a “national dialogue” that was aimed at calming soaring political tensions but was largely boycotted by leading opposition figures.
Top UN peacekeeping officials hail success of community violence reduction programmes
Community violence reduction (CVR) programmes are not well-known, but are proving to be an effective peacekeeping tool, senior United Nations officials said today during an event to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the launch of CVR in Haiti.
“Since [the first programme’s launch], CVR has proven itself useful in many different contexts, precisely because it is agile and people-centered,” Hervé Ladsous, the Under-Secretary-General for UN Peacekeeping Operations, told a panel discussion at UN Headquarters on ‘Creating Space for Peace.’
He said that an inclusive approach to the reduction of violence is a goal for the entire UN family. Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) has assumed a central role in achieving that goal over the past three decades. The endurance of DDR is mostly due to the flexible approaches it has taken to adapt to the changing nature of armed groups.
Kenya delays Dadaab refugee camp closure by six months
Kenya’s decision comes after calls by the international community to postpone the closure on humanitarian grounds.
Kenya says it will delay by six months the closure of the Dadaab refugee camp, the world’s largest, after calls by the UN and aid groups to postpone it on humanitarian grounds.
Dadaab, currently home to an estimated 350,000, was opened in 1991 as a temporary shelter for people fleeing civil war in neighbouring Somalia. Yet, prolonged violence and insecurity turned it over the years into a sprawling tent city.