News Briefs 19 July 2019

Democratic Republic of Congo

High-level meeting on the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo affirms support for Government-led response and UN system-wide approach

Almost a year after the outbreak of Ebola was declared in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and with the number of new cases at worrying levels, the United Nations hosted a high-level meeting today in Geneva to take stock of the coordinated response and galvanize further support for the government-led effort to defeat the deadly disease.

Yesterday, 14 July, the first case of Ebola was confirmed in Goma, a city of about 1 million people south of the outbreak’s epicenter. Almost 3,000 health workers have so far been vaccinated against the disease in Goma. More than 1,650 people have died in the current outbreak, while about 12 new cases are reported every day.

With the outbreak still confined to the provinces of North Kivu and Ituri, the response is at a critical juncture.  WHO assesses the risk of spread to neighbouring provinces and countries as very high.

UN News

DR Congo Warlord Bosco Ntaganda Guilty of War Crimes

The International Criminal Court has convicted ex-warlord Bosco Ntaganda, known as the “Congolese Terminator”, of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The charges are from 2002 and 2003, when he was deputy chief of staff of the military wing of the Union of Congolese Patriots.

The International Criminal Court’s (ICC) conviction of the Congolese rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda sends a strong message that justice may await those responsible for grave crimes in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Human Rights Watch said today.

On July 8, 2019, a panel of three judges unanimously found Ntaganda guilty of 13 counts of war crimes and five counts of crimes against humanity committed in Ituri, eastern Congo, in 2002 and 2003. The charges included murder and attempted murder, rape, sexual slavery, attacking civilians, pillaging, displacement of civilians, attacking protected objects, and recruiting and using child soldiers. The judges found that Ntaganda and others agreed on a common plan to attack and drive the ethnic Lendu population out of Ituri through the commission of crimes. Human Rights Watch issued a question-and-answer document on Ntaganda’s trial.



UN envoy to Somalia highlights importance of collaboration in visit to South West State

Continuing his inaugural visits to regional centres following his recent arrival in the country, the United Nations envoy to Somalia, James Swan, visited South West State (SWS) today, where he met with President Abdiaziz Hassan Mohamed ‘Laftagareen.’

In the state’s provisional state capital, Baidoa, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia discussed with President Laftagareen the various ways in which the world body and the SWS authorities collaborate to have a positive impact on the lives of the state’s inhabitants.

“I’m grateful to President Laftagareen for hosting me in Baidoa today, where I have come to strengthen our collaboration regarding political, capacity-building and humanitarian activities,” Mr. Swan said, “and to tell the people of South West State that the UN family is striving to respond to their needs so we have a real, positive impact on the multiple challenges that the state faces, in order to build together the institutions that it deserves.”

Relief Web

Somali forces brace for new attacks after hotel assault leaves dozens dead

Security forces in Somalia are braced for a wave of new attacks by Islamist extremists following a bloody overnight assault on a hotel that ended on Saturday.

The death toll from the attack in the southern port city of Kismayo, which began on Friday evening, has risen to 26 people, including a prominent Canadian-Somali journalist and several foreigners.

The victims include one Briton, three Kenyans, three Tanzanians, two Americans and one Canadian, said Ahmed Madobe Islam, the president of the Jubaland regional state that controls Kismayo.

He told reporters that 56 people, including two Chinese, were injured.

The Guardian

Central African Republic

Armed Group Kills 46 Civilians

Fighters from the armed group Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation, or 3R, killed at least 46 civilians on May 21, 2019, in three attacks in Ouham Pendé province in the Central African Republic. In February, 14 armed groups, including 3R, signed a peace accord with the Central African government and in March, the 3R commander, General Sidiki Abass (also known as Bi Sidi Souleymane) was appointed by presidential decree a military adviser to the prime minister.

“The killings of these civilians are war crimes that need to be effectively investigated and those responsible brought to justice,” said Lewis Mudge, Central Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “That the evidence implicates 3R and Abass, who have signed a peace accord designed to end such crimes, makes a prompt and independent investigation all the more urgent.”

Human Rights Watch

Armed rebels threaten peace agreement in Central African Republic, bishop warns

Armed rebel groups are thwarting the prospects for success of the Central African Republic’s recent peace agreement, warned the president of the country’s Catholic bishops.

“The government is keeping its part of the bargain in this current peace agreement, but the armed group leaders are not really eager to implement their own part of the obligations,” Bishop Nestor-Desire Nongo-Aziagbia of Bossangoa, the president of the bishops’ conference in the CAR, told CNA in an interview July 15.

In February, the government signed an agreement—the Political Accord for Peace and Reconciliation—in Khartoum, Sudan, with more than a dozen rebel groups. Several other peace agreements to end the country’s prolonged conflict have fallen through in recent years.

Catholic News Agency


Hundreds march in Sudan to honour ‘martyrs’ of protests

Sudanese police fired tear gas as hundreds of demonstrators marched in capital Khartoum towards a prominent square to honour dozens of people killed in the months-long protest movement that has rocked the northeast African country.

The rallies on Thursday came a day after protest leaders and the army rulers inked a power-sharing deal to form a joint civilian-military body tasked with installing a civilian administration – the main demand of the demonstrators.

Witnesses said men and women chanting revolutionary slogans and waving Sudanese flags headed towards the Green Yard, a prominent square in Khartoum in response to calls from a key protest group.


Sudanese military and protesters sign power-sharing accord

Military rulers in Sudan signed an agreement with protesters on Wednesday to share power with civilian leaders.

The deal comes after lengthy and difficult negotiations between generals who seized power after the fall of Omar al-Bashir in April and leaders of the pro-democracy campaign whose demonstrations led to the veteran dictator’s fall.

Analysts say it offers a chance to end months of political crisis and repeated bouts of violent repression, but that much will depend on further talks on the exact details and timing of any political transition.

The two sides initialled a document called the “political declaration” after intense talks through the night.

The Guardian

South Sudan

Authorities crackdown on critics in cross-border campaign of intimidation

The South Sudanese authorities have in recent months escalated their crackdown on peaceful dissent by conducting a cross-border campaign of harassment, intimidation and attacks against critics to prevent a series of global protests on the country’s leadership from taking place, reveals a new briefing by Amnesty International.

The protests organized by the Red Card Movement (RCM), a nascent South Sudanese youth movement open to any individual who embraces non-violence, were planned to take place on 16 May in the South Sudanese capital Juba, and other locations around the world. The protests did not take place in Juba.

“It is a shame that the authorities fail to appreciate the pivotal role that respecting, protecting and promoting human rights plays in the country’s growth and development,” said Joan Nyanyuki, Amnesty International’s Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

Amnesty International

South Sudan editor banned from leaving country, removed from flight

Michael Christopher, the chief editor of South Sudan’s Arabic newspaper Al Watan, has been stopped from leaving the country on the grounds that he published content that was critical of the government.

Christopher was recently forcibly removed from a Kenya Airways flight bound for Nairobi by officers from South Sudan’s National Security Service at Juba International Airport, who according to the East African were acting on the highest authority.

The senior journalist, whose passport was confiscated and has yet to be returned, was due to attend a workshop in the Kenyan capital.


Western Sahara

The ambiguity and the ambivalence of the EU position in Western Sahara

Morocco enjoys an extraordinary geo-strategic position thanks to its Mediterranean Atlantic coastline and its proximity to the European continent, but at the same time, the Moroccan diplomatic influence comes from its occupation of Western Sahara, which is considered as lungs and a Gateway for all connection of Morocco with Africa across the road of El Guergarate. This situation has direct geopolitical and geo-economics consequences on Moroccan relations with the European Union and Sub Saharan Africa.

Morocco and the European Union (EU) are bound by an association agreement signed in 1996 and entered into force in 2000, which is concretized in October 2008, by an “advanced status”.

In this context, the 14th meeting of the EU Association Council with Morocco of 27 June 2019, witnessing a new European approach to the issue of Western Sahara, which has been relegated to the second plan, without any declaration that respects the inalienable right of the Saharawi people to self-determination. It must be admitted, that only the European Court of Justice, which has an indisputable position respecting the international law of non-self-governing territories in the case of Western Sahara.

Modern Diplomacy

South Africa supports the struggle of Western Sahara for freedom and self-determination

The President of South Africa, Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa, reiterated the support of his country to the legitimate struggle of Saharawi people for freedom and self-determination, in his address yesterday before the South African Parliament to present the Presidency budget vote for 2019-2020.

“Support for the struggles of nations that still suffer under the yoke of oppression is an integral part of our foreign policy. We reaffirm our support for the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination, and for the struggle of the people of the Western Sahara.”  Cyril Ramaphosa says in his address on the Presidency Budget Vote 2019/2020

The South African President detailed the various levels of priorities adopted by his government, and stressed the important role South Africa is planning to play at the African level, especially that he will be chairing the African Union next year.

Sahara Press Service


Human Rights Watch Adds to Criticism of Swaziland’s Freedom Abuses

Another human rights group has criticised the Swaziland/eSwatini state for restricting freedom of association and assembly. Swaziland is ruled by King Mswati III as an absolute monarch.

Human Rights Watch in a report detailing events during 2018 stated, ‘Restrictions on freedom of association and assembly continued in 2018. Although Eswatini signed the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance in January, the government has not taken steps to ratify and implement the charter.

‘A few days before the September elections, public sector workers, including teachers and nurses under the umbrella of the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA), embarked on protests over salaries across the country. Police responded in a heavy-handed manner, beating and injuring protesters in Manzini.


Swaziland Children Forced to Work As Groundsmen As Govt Delays Funding Their School

Pupils in Swaziland / eSwatini are being forced to work as groundsmen at their primary school because the government has not paid grants it owes.

The children at Vulamehlo pick up paper, cut grass and sweep the school yard. The work used to be down by a groundsman but he lost his job because the school could not pay him. This is because like other schools across the kingdom it has not received free primary education (FPE) grants from the government.

Vulamehlo is also not serving meals to the pupils as the school did not have funds to pay school staff, deputy headteacher Cynthia Dlamini told the Times of Swaziland.

She said, ‘We have not received FPE grants yet and this has resulted in our groundsman leaving the school as we have failed to pay him. In the meantime, pupils perform the duties of the groundsman.’



Zimbabwe civil servants accept pay deal, avert strike

Zimbabwe’s public sector workers said on Thursday they had accepted a government pay offer, averting a potentially damaging strike in a country facing its worst economic crisis in a decade.

The workers had on Tuesday threatened to stay away from work unless the state raised wages to the equivalent of US$475 per month for the lowest paid – a move they said would only keep up with crippling inflation.

After negotiations which stretched into Thursday, the Civil Service Apex Council – a confederation of public sector unions – said the government had tabled an improved offer which it found acceptable.

“Through further negotiations and dialogue, we have achieved to make the government pay each and every civil servant the sum of 400 Zimbabwe dollars (US$45) as a once-off payment together with the salary of July, regardless of one’s grade,” the union said in a statement.


Why is Zimbabwe’s inflation rate still climbing?

Zimbabwe finance minister Mthuli Ncube seems to be doing everything by the book as he pursues orthodox economic policy often prescribed by the global Bretton Woods lending institutions to try to turn around a sickly economy.

The government is running a budget surplus for the first time in years and has stopped runaway money printing, which led to hyperinflation of 500-billion percent in 2008.

Last month the central bank raised its overnight lending rate to 50% to protect the local currency after ending a decade of dollarisation.

Ncube, a former chief economist at the African Development Bank, agreed to a staff monitoring programme with the IMF in May, under which Harare promised not to borrow offshore and to cut reliance on the central bank to finance deficits

Business Day

Africa in General

Ethiopia on verge of political crisis as region’s declaration of independence looms

Ethiopia is facing a new political crisis with the Sidama people stating that they are on the brink of declaring a new state and breaking away from the rest of the country.

A deadline for the government of Prime Minister Ahmed Abiy to respond to the request for a referendum on the matter expires on Thursday.

The city of Hawassa, in southern Ethiopia, is where Sidama activists plan the capital of their new federal state to be.

Currently the green, blue and red flag of the Sidama people is flying above government buildings in defiance of Addis Ababa, the East African reported.


WHO declares DRC Ebola outbreak a ‘global health emergency’

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday called the year-old outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo a global health emergency, The New York Times reported.

The declaration, made by a panel of experts, follows news this week that the deadly infectious disease had spread to Goma, the largest city in eastern Congo.

Earlier this week, a preacher with Ebola arrived by bus to the city of 2 million, which is near the border with Rwanda. He has since died, WHO confirmed.

And as of Monday, the outbreak in the Congo has infected 2 512 people and killed 1 676 of them, the Times reported.