News Briefs: 19 May 2017

Democratic Republic of Congo

Bob Dole signs contract to help Democratic Republic of Congo’s president cozy up to Trump

Joseph Kabila is in a tight spot. After the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo cancelled elections, his sub-Saharan nation has been rocked by massive protests, global condemnation, and widespread violence. Luckily, the African strongman has a good man in Washington.

The troubled African government has poured millions into a campaign to curry favor in the U.S., recruiting an army of lobbyists, notably including Trump ally and former Majority Leader Bob Dole. And that Kansas Republican doesn’t come cheap.

Washington Examiner

Ebola in Democratic Republic of Congo to Cost $10 Million, WHO Says

A fresh outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) will cost $10 million to fight, and it could take months because victims are in such a remote and disrupted part of the country, the World Health Organization said Thursday.

At least 20 people are sick and three have been killed by the virus, WHO officials said. They are the first case — a 39-year-old man — a person who cared for him and a man who drove him on a motorcycle to get help.

NBC News


Somalia: Drought doubles influx at children nutrition centres

Hunger and thirst, the deadly consequences of Somalia’s drought, have doubled the number of children admitted to the nutritional centre in Baidoa. The centre, one of the few places where malnourished children under age five can get life-saving treatment in south and central Somalia, has more than twice as many children this year compared to last year. In a similar centre in the country’s southern port city, Kismayo, the situation is much the same, the facility is overwhelmed by the high number of mothers streaming in with children visibly wasted, and in urgent need of medical help.

At Baidoa hospital, tents have been put up to accommodate an increase in patients that has stretched the hospital’s capacity to far beyond its 150-bed limit. The centre has now admitted 230 children under the age of five, who are staying with either their mothers or care givers. This time last year, the figure stood at 100.


Blast Kills 3 Bomb Disposal Experts in Somalia’s Capital

Three bomb disposal experts were killed in a car bomb blast west of Somalia’s capital on Wednesday, police said.

The bomb detonated as the experts were trying to dismantle a car laden with explosives that security forces seized in Wadajir district, Capt. Mohamed Hussein said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast. The Somalia-based al-Shabab extremist group often claims responsibility for such attacks.

US News

Central African Republic

Red Cross Finds 115 Bodies in Central African Republic Town

Red Cross workers have found 115 bodies in Central African Republic’s diamond-mining town of Bangassou after several days of militia attacks, the president of the aid group’s local branch said on Wednesday.

“We found 115 bodies and 34 have been buried,” Antoine Mbao Bogo told Reuters by phone from the capital Bangui. “They died in various ways: from knives, from clubs and bullet wounds.”

A senior UN official had previously reported 26 civilian deaths.


UN: Firepower escalates in Central African Republic conflict

The latest upsurge in deadly violence in the Central African Republic saw the first use of heavy weapons and more sophisticated military tactics by a predominantly Christian armed group, a senior U.N. official said Thursday.

Diane Corner, the U.N. deputy special representative in the beleaguered country, said that since May 8 more than 150 people, including six U.N. peacekeepers, have been killed in the southeastern city of Bangassou, the southern town of Alindao and the northern town of Bria — and the death toll may rise.

Over 25,000 people are displaced in the three localities and 3,000 people from Bangassou have fled across the border to northern Congo, which has seen a recent outbreak of Ebola cases, she said in a video press conference with U.N. reporters.

New York Times


Trump to attend Saudi conference alongside Sudanese President wanted for genocide

Egypt’s authoritarian Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was the first world leader to get a phone call when US President Donald Trump entered office. Warm congratulations were offered to Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the result of a national referendum which will probably see him stay in power until 2029.

And Mr Trump holds Vladimir Putin in such high regard he was apparently willing to share classified information with the Russian Foreign Minister last week.

The latest international strongman – or dictator, as the rest of us would put it – who Mr Trump could soon be rubbing shoulders with is Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir, wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity, including genocide.


Huge influx of South Sudanese refugees puts pressure on Sudan

As the rainy season is approaching, the suffering of around 50,000 South Sudanese refugees in a camp in Sudan’s White Nile State is likely to worsen.

Khour Al-Waral refugee camp in Al-Salam locality, some 69 km south of Rebek, the capital city of White Nile State, is accommodating 50,000 refugees. The majority of them are from Upper Nile State of South Sudan on the border with Sudan.

Coastal Week

South Sudan

South Sudan president and former army chief “reconciled”

South Sudan President Salva Kiir has “reconciled” with former chief of army General, Paul Malong Awan.

The presidential spokesman, Ateny Wek Ateny described Thursday’s meeting between Awan and the president as “cordial and friendly.”

“I can now report to the South Sudanese that President Salva Kiir Mayardit and former chief of staff General Paul Malong Awan have reconciled. They reflected on their long comradeship, friendship dating back to the time of war of liberation and small differences were easily resolved,” Ateny told reporters in the capital, Juba.

Sudan Tribune

South Sudan forces killed 114 civilians around Yei in six months – U.N.

South Sudanese pro-government forces killed at least 114 civilians in and around Yei town between July 2016 and January 2017, as well as committing uncounted rapes, looting and torture, the U.N. human rights office said on Friday.

“Attacks were committed with an alarming degree of brutality and, like elsewhere in the country, appeared to have an ethnic dimension,” a report on the U.N. investigation said.

“These cases included attacks on funerals and indiscriminate shelling of civilians; cases of sexual violence perpetrated against women and girls, including those fleeing fighting; often committed in front of the victims’ families.”

The Star

Western Sahara

Morocco phosphate ship held in Panama over Western Sahara challenge: officials

Panama authorities have detained a Moroccan phosphate shipment from the disputed territory of Western Sahara after the Polisario independence movement claimed the cargo had been transported illegally, Polisario and officials said on Thursday.

The detention of the vessel carrying phosphate rock cargo from Morocco’s OCP for Canada’s Agrium is the second tanker stopped this month by a Polisario legal challenge, a new tactic the independence movement has been using in its conflict with Morocco.

Western Sahara has been disputed since 1975, when Morocco claimed it as part of the kingdom and the Polisario fought a guerrilla war for the Sahrawi people’s independence. A 1991 ceasefire split the region in two between what Morocco calls its southern provinces and an area controlled by Polisario.


Sahrawi Government announces detention of a vessel carrying a cargo of phosphate rock destined for Canada from occupied Western Sahara

The government of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (the SADR) and the Frente POLISARIO, announced today the detention of a second vessel carrying a cargo of phosphate rock illegally mined and sold from occupied Western Sahara.  The motor vessel Ultra Innovation was detained last night in Panama under court order while transiting the Panama Canal en route to Canada.

The motor vessel is carrying phosphate rock, estimated at 55,000 tonnes and valued around $6 million USD is considered to be bound for Agrium Inc. through the Port of Vancouver, consistent with a pattern of shipments for the company and a chartering of vessels managed by the Danish firm Ultrabulk A/S.

Sahara Press Service


Swazi Govt. ‘Killing Its Own People’

The kingdom’s only independent newspaper has accused the Swaziland Government of ‘killing its people’ with a shortage of medicines in hospitals.

The Government, handpicked by King Mswati III who rules Swaziland as an absolute monarch, has admitted it has not paid drug companies for past deliveries and supplies have dried up.

Under the heading ‘Government now killing its people’ a Times of Swaziland editorial comment on Monday (15 May 2017) asked, ‘What value does our government place on the life of an ordinary citizen when it allows our hospitals and clinics to run short of essential drugs?’

SNPF now worth over E3.2bn

Though the Swaziland National Provident Fund (SNPF) started with as little as E100 000 in 1976, today the fund is worth over E3.2 billion.

It was already worth E300 million by the year 2000.

This was disclosed by SNPF Chief Executive Officer Prince Lonkhokhela yesterday during the fund’s inaugural annual stakeholder meeting held at Esibayeni Lodge in Matsapha yesterday.

The objectives of the annual stakeholder forum which was graced by Minister of Labour and Social Security Winnie Magagula were to share information on the operations of the fund in an open, effective and timely manner and to create opportunity for stakeholders to interact with the board and management and share their thoughts on the operations of the fund.

Swazi Observer


Zimbabwe’s bond notes ‘being traded outside borders’ – report

They said it couldn’t happen but it has: Zimbabwe’s bond notes are being smuggled just over the border and traded on the black market, a report says.

The state-controlled Sunday News says its reporters have been to border posts at Plumtree, Victoria Falls and Beitbridge where they’ve found traders selling the bond notes to people who want to make sure they have cash before they enter Zimbabwe.

“They will rather change their money here and that is why we try by all means to get the bond notes to conduct business… we are also making sure our people in Zimbabwe keep on supplying the notes so that we are in business,” an unnamed money changer at Ramokgwebana Border Post in Botswana told the paper.


‘Excessive’ spending by Mugabe government could fuel inflation: IMF

The International Monetary Fund (IMF)is warning that excessive spending by President Robert Mugabe’s government will worsen cash shortages and stoke inflation.

The warning came as latest figures showed inflation rose to 0.48% in April up from 0.21% in March.

“Excessive government spending, if continued, could exacerbate the cash scarcity, further jeopardise the health of the external and financial sectors, and, ultimately, fuel inflation,” said Ana Lucia Coronel, who headed an IMF mission to the country this month.


Compensation for seized land ‘an urgent issue’, Germany tells Zimbabwe

Germany has reportedly demanded compensation for land seized from its citizens during Zimbabwe’s controversial land reforms, saying this was “an urgent and important issue”.

According to New, Germany’s ambassador to Zimbabwe Thorsten Hutter maintained that the issue of compensation was part of the re-engagement dialogue between the southern African country and the European Union.

Hutter said this following a meeting with the Speaker of Parliament, Jacob Mudenda.

“We have a number of German nationals who invested here in Zimbabwe after independence who are not here anymore… I did not discuss the issue [compensation] with the Speaker of Parliament today but what I can say is that this issue is important,” Hutter was quoted as saying.




Africa in General

A decade after debt forgiveness, Africa still hooked on dollars

When rich countries wrote off billions of dollars of African debt in 2005, they hoped governments would think twice about borrowing again in costly foreign currencies.

Over a decade later, most sub-Saharan African countries still rely on U.S. dollar-denominated debt to finance their economies. Some investors say this is sowing the seeds of future debt crises if local currencies devalue and make dollar debt repayments more expensive.

Aside from South Africa and Nigeria, governments have not yet done enough to develop capital markets that would have allowed them to raise more money in their own currencies, investors say.

United Nations trade body UNCTAD estimates that Africa’s external debt stock rapidly grew to $443 billion by 2013 through bilateral borrowing, syndicated loans and bonds. But since then sharp currency devaluations across the continent have pushed up the cost of servicing this debt pile, which continues to grow.


Eight months after approval, new U.N. troops trickle into South Sudan

Some eight months after the U.N. Security Council authorized the deployment of an extra 4,000 peacekeepers to war-torn South Sudan, the first of those troops have just trickled in amid bureaucratic hurdles by the country’s reluctant government.

“Meanwhile the situation in the country has deteriorated at a rapid pace,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a monthly report on the status of the deployment and obstacles facing some 13,000 peacekeepers already on the ground.

The 15-member Security Council approved the additional troops – known as a regional protection force (RPF) – in August, following several days of heavy fighting in the capital Juba between troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and those backing former Vice President Riek Machar.


U.N. gives Sudan and South Sudan 6 months for Abyei monitoring

The U.N. Security Council agreed unanimously that the stalemate between Sudan and South Sudan over the status of the oil-rich region of Abyei has gone on for too long and gave the countries a final six months to implement joint border monitoring.

A U.N. peacekeeping mission has been in Abyei since June 2011 and the council also voted to reduce its military ceiling to 4,791 troops. It was 5,326 in October.

The council’s unanimous actions reflected the Trump administration’s determination to reform the U.N.’s far-flung peacekeeping operations and take action when missions aren’t able to carry out their mandates.

Sudan’s north and south fought a civil war that lasted decades and killed some 2 million people. It ended with a 2005 peace deal that required both sides to peacefully resolve the final status of oil-rich border region of Abyei, and gave the south the right to hold a self-determination vote.

The Philadelphia Tribune

SA deports at least 300 Malawi illegal immigrants – report

South Africa has deported at least 300 Malawian citizens, who had been living in the country without proper documents, a report says.

According to Nyasa Times, Malawi’s deputy national spokesperson for the immigration department, Wellington Chiponde, said that half of the deportees arrived in the southern African country on Tuesday.

The other half was expected to have arrived on Wednesday.

Around 849 Malawians were detained by South African authorities for contravening immigration laws.