Democratic Republic of Congo
The United Nations announced Tuesday it will investigate the death of 39 Burundian refugees in clashes with soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo in September.
The soldiers allegedly opened fire on the refugees in eastern South Kivu province after they protested the detention of a small group of Burundians by Congolese authorities.
Nigerian Lieutenant-General Chikadibia Isaac Obiakor will lead the UN investigation of the violence on September 15 in Kamanyola, said a UN statement.
In a stark warning, three UN agencies – the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP) – say time is running out to save hundreds of thousands of lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Farmers – who fled due to conflict – have missed three consecutive planting seasons. This has left people with almost nothing to eat. Food assistance is failing to fill the gap. Only 400,000 out of the 3.2 million severely food insecure people in Kasai received assistance in December. More than 750,000 are still displaced. Around 630,000 people have returned to their burned down villages after hiding in the forest, they must be helped to resume food production. Over ninety percent of rural communities depend entirely on agriculture.
“Agriculture is the only way to become productive again. Not only does it generate food and income for families, but it restores hope, dignity and self-reliance”, said Alexis Bonte, FAO Representative ad interim in the DRC.
Somalia’s Islamist militant group al Shabaab on Thursday denied that it was threatening and abducting civilians to hand over their children for indoctrination and military training.
Al Shabaab has been fighting for years to topple Somalia’s central government and rule the Horn of Africa country according to its own interpretation of Islamic law.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Monday that the armed group began ordering elders and teachers in rural parts of the southern Bay region in mid-2017 to provide them with children – as young as eight – or face reprisals.
But an al Shabaab spokesman told the Thomson Reuters Foundation the group does not recruit members below the age of 15, and that no one is forced to join. He said children were being sent to Islamic religious schools to be educated.
The 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan for Somalia, which calls for $1.6 billion to protect the lives of 5.4 million Somalis, was launched today by the Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, Peter de Clercq.
In his remarks, De Clercq said: “Working together with the Somali authorities and with historical levels of support from the international community, I am proud that we averted a possible famine last year.
“Lasting solutions to drought, conflict and displacement remain, however, out of our reach, and much more must be done to eliminate the looming threat of famine in this country. We must tackle the humanitarian needs while simultaneously looking at longer-term solutions. If we do not continue to save lives and in parallel build resilience, then we have only delayed a famine, not prevented one,” warned de Clercq.
Central African Republic
The United Nations Mission in the troubled Central African Republic, known by its French acronym, MINUSCA, has given armed groups in the north of the country 48 hours to clear out.
The Mission wants to clear a 50 kilometre perimeter around the town allowing displaced persons to return.
Over the last three weeks, some 60,000 people – mostly women – left everything behind to escape clashes between the armed groups Justice Riot (RJ) and the National Movement for the Liberation of the Central African Republic (MNLC).
The UN says some 100 000 people in the Central African Republic city of Paoua urgently need humanitarian aid following clashes between armed groups.
UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said on Monday that over 60 000 people have taken refuge in the city near the border with Chad as a result of the fighting and 40 000 live there.
Dujarric said “should armed groups continue clashing and attack other villages, the number of displaced people in Paoua could potentially double or triple.”
Sudanese police fired tear gas, struck demonstrators with batons and arrested several people at a protest against soaring living costs in the centre of Khartoum on Tuesday.
Several hundred demonstrators gathered on a street near the presidential palace, chanting slogans against rising prices and calling for a change of government before clashes broke out, a Reuters reporter said.
Protests and clashes with security forces broke out across the country early this month after Khartoum imposed tough economic measures in line with recommendations by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Authorities in Sudan have seized copies of newspapers and arrested several reporters over articles on “anti-inflation protests” prompting calls from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) against the harassment.
“Sudanese authorities should cease harassing and arresting journalists and confiscating newspapers, and should allow journalists to report on matters of public interest without fear of reprisal,” the CPJ said on Friday.
The Sudanese Journalists Network (SJN) said on Tuesday and Wednesday Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) arrested seven journalists while they were reporting on anti-inflation protests in Khartoum.
Rebels in South Sudan have accused mediators of allowing the government to violate the recent cease-fire, an allegation the top mediator quickly rejected Thursday.
A rebel spokesman accused the regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development bloc and the “troika” countries of Norway, Britain and the United States of turning a blind eye to violations by South Sudan’s first vice president, Taban Deng Gai.
Colonel Lam Paul Gabriel said in a statement that IGAD and the troika allowed Gai to travel to Jonglei state, “where he is causing more destruction and displacement to civilians in the areas under the control of SPLM-IO” — the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in-Opposition.
Voice of America
The United Nations says violence against aid workers in South Sudan reached a new high in 2017, with 28 killed.
Nearly half of the 1 159 humanitarian access incidents reported last year by aid agencies involved violence including killing, looting and threats.
The UN humanitarian office calls the trend “indicative of increasingly difficult times for aid workers in the country.” It says the trend continues even after President Salva Kiir in November ordered unimpeded movement for aid groups.
South Sudan’s civil war, now in its fifth year, has killed tens of thousands and plunged parts of the country into famine. Two million people have fled the country.
Demonstrations in Morocco’s Rif region, the most sustained street protests the country has seen since the Arab uprisings of 2011, showed the limits to Morocco’s tolerance of free speech and the right of peaceful assembly, Human Rights Watch said today in releasing its World Report 2018. Morocco should release all imprisoned peaceful protesters and abolish penal code provisions that allow the government to jail people for expressing their views.
Protests began in the restive northern Rif region in October 2016. The authorities tolerated the protests for several months, but violently detained protest leaders in May 2017 and banned a major rally announced for July. Since then the government has imprisoned journalists and others for participating in, or supporting, “illegal” demonstrations.
Authorities frequently tolerated protests held in front of parliament in Rabat and elsewhere, but almost never in Morocco-controlled Western Sahara, where police came out in force to pre-empt any gathering deemed sympathetic to self-determination for that disputed territory.
Human Rights Watch
The European Union’s fisheries deal with Morocco should be declared invalid because it includes Western Sahara, an adviser to the EU’s top court said on Wednesday in the latest legal opinion on trade ties involving the disputed territory.
Western Sahara has been contested since 1975 when Spanish colonial powers left. Morocco claimed the territory as it own and fought the 16-year war with the Polisario Front independence movement which established its self-declared Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.
The United Nations says the region has a right to self-determination and campaigners have sought to challenge the EU’s trade deals with Morocco in the courts because they include the desert region.
Wednesday’s opinion by the European Union Court of Justice’s Advocate General Melchior Wathelet came in response to British-based campaigners who said Britain was wrong to uphold the EU-Morocco fisheries deal. Britain asked the ECJ for advice.
Civil liberties in Swaziland have deteriorated in the past year, a leading global freedom group has reported.
Freedom House reported, ‘Swaziland’s civil liberties rating declined from five to six due to increased government infringements on religious freedom and freedom of private discussion.’
The organisation said this in the Freedom in the World 2018 report just released. On a scale from one to seven where seven is the least free, Swaziland scored 6.5 on freedom; seven on political rights and six on civil liberties. It scored 16 out of 100 in total and Freedom House reported Swaziland was ‘not free’.
It has yet to release a detailed report on human rights in Swaziland for the past year. Swaziland is ruled by King Mswati III as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
Swazi editor Zweli Martin Dlamini has fled to neighbouring South Africa after he received death threats. He had written a story about absolute monarch King Mswati III’s shady dealings in the telecommunications industry, writes Kenworthy News Media.
Last June, editor of independent business newspaper Swaziland Shopping Zweli Martin Dlamini wrote and published a story about new telecommunications company Swazi Mobile, owned by King Mswati III and run by local businessman Victor Gamedze.
The punchline of the story was that the pair had forced Swaziland’s government to side-line rival government parastatal company SPTC from competing with Swazi Mobile – a new company that they and other high-ranking officials, including the Prime Minister, owns shares in.
Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa has announced that the country will hold elections in five months, the first poll the southern African state since independence that does not involve former President Robert Mugabe.
Mnangagwa said that he had no doubt that the vote would go ahead peacefully, according to the state daily, The Herald.
“We will ensure that Zimbabwe delivers free, credible, fair and indisputable elections to ensure Zimbabwe engages the world as a qualified democratic state,” he said.
Mugabe, who was one of the longest serving leaders in the world, was forced out of office late November by the army.
The call comes at a time when President Emmerson Mnangagwa‚ whose ascendance to power is credited to the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF)‚ told Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi in Maputo on Wednesday that elections would be held in about five months’ time and be peaceful.
However‚ the MDCT is worried about developments at home with allegations that military personnel in civilian clothing have been deployed to rural areas‚ home to 65% of the population in Zimbabwe.
“We have solid and incontrovertible evidence pointing to the fact that thousands of army officers in civilian attire have been deployed into the countryside for the purpose of carrying out clandestine political campaigns on behalf of Zanu PF‚” the party said.
The party also made an open plea that international election observers such as the United Nations be allowed into the country.
Africa in General
The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has expressed solidarity with the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in their struggle “to rid themselves of the repressive regime of President Joseph Kabila”.
In a Thursday press release, the union stated: “Numsa condemns Kabila and his administration for the brutality and violence which has been meted out against the people of that country. He has no legitimacy and therefore has no right to govern.”
The organisation demanded that Kabila be removed immediately and that all political prisoners be released.
“There is no doubt that Kabila’s regime is cruel and ruthless. The UN Mission in the DRC has documented over 700 violations across the country in October last year, including extra judicial killings and rape,” Numsa said. “Mass graves have also been discovered in the town of Nganza where its alleged that government forces went door-to-door massacring entire families in March last year.”
Numsa added: “He must be relegated to the dustbin of history along with other dictators, which is where he belongs! Numsa demands an end to the war of terror which the administration of Kabila has unleashed on the citizenry of the DRC.
“We first heard gunshots. Then we saw the horses arrive, each carrying two or three men, armed with Kalashnikovs, rifles, bows and arrows,” Charles Tombe says.
“They shot at everyone — we fled into the bush. There are corpses over there, rotting.”
Tombe, 52, ran a small medical centre, which he said was burned down along with all the other houses after the village of Bekoro Misso was looted.
He is one of numerous eyewitnesses AFP interviewed about militia violence that has erupted in northwest Central African Republic, sapping hopes of stabilising a dirt-poor, fragile state.
Tombe and thousands of others have sought refuge in the small dusty town of Paoua. Many survivors recount nightmarish stories of gunfire and machete attacks.
Founding Movement for Democratic Change treasurer Roy Bennett died in a helicopter crash in a remote area of the US state of New Mexico, authorities said Thursday.
Bennett was killed along with his wife Heather and three other people after the helicopter went down on Wednesday, New Mexico state police said.
A crash survivor called 911 for help but could not say where in the mountainous region the wreckage was located. After a frantic search the crash was found ablaze at a ranch about 10 miles east of the town of Raton.
State police officers at the scene “reported the helicopter wreckage had been engulfed in fire making identification difficult,” the NMSP statement read but confirmed that Bennett, 60, and his 55-year-old wife were among the victims.
With condemnations of US President Donald Trump from African leaders continuing, the collective of African ambassadors to the UN has described his remarks as outrageous, racist and xenophobic.
This comes after Trump questioned why the US would accept more immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador or countries in Africa using a vulgar term to describe them.
The US president reportedly made the remarks at a White House meeting on immigration last week.
The ambassadors are demanding an apology and retraction of the remarks from Trump.
Ghanaian ambassador to the UN Martha Pobee speaks on behalf of the African ambassadors.
“The African ambassadors are extremely appalled and strongly condemns the remakes attributed to the president of America.”
US Ambassador Nikki Haley told African envoys on Thursday that “Africa is very important for the United States”, but she didn’t apologise for President Donald Trump’s vulgar comment about the continent as they had demanded, the chair of the African Group said.
Equatorial Guinea’s UN ambassador, Anatolio Ndong Mba, told two reporters after the closed meeting requested by Haley that “we do hope that that (apology) will come”, perhaps from Trump to African leaders at their summit in Ethiopia on January 28-29.
Ndong Mba said the 54-nation African Group at the United Nations gave Haley a “specific recommendation” but he refused to disclose it. Other diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorised to speak publicly, said it was to have Trump send a message to leaders at the summit.