News Briefs: 2 December 2016

Democratic Republic of Congo

UN envoy calls on political stakeholders to show flexibility to aid election process

Wrapping up a visit to Africa’s Great Lakes region, a United Nations envoy today urged stakeholders in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) electoral process to do more to help ensure the country is able to hold peaceful elections.

“The Democratic Republic of the Congo is at an important turning point in its political history – I call on all parties to demonstrate flexibility and readiness for compromise to create propitious conditions for peaceful and credible elections,” the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region, Said Djinnit, said today, according to a news release from his office.

The envoy’s comments came at the end of a four-day trip to the DRC’s capital, Kinshasa. According to his office, the aim of the visit was to consult with a wide range of national stakeholders on the electoral process and related political issues and seek their views on how best to support the ongoing mediation efforts led by the Conference Episcopale Nationale du Congo (CENCO), which, it said, are aimed at broadening the consensus on, and inclusivity of the electoral and political process building on the so-called Global Political Agreement reached on 18 October.

UN News

UN mission in DRC condemns deadly attack on Hutu village

The United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have condemned Sunday’s attack on an internally displaced people’s camp by militiamen.

The attack attack on over 1000 Hutu displaced families was carried out by the Mayi-Mayi Mazembe group. It led to the death of over 30 people.

‘‘MONUSCO strongly condemns this attack against civilians and extends its sympathy and condolences to the families of the deceased. MONUSCO remains determined to protect civilians to the best of its ability,’‘ the statement said.

Africa News


After election delay, Somalia’s first female presidential candidate says she may not run again

Fadumo Dayib, Somalia’s first female presidential candidate, is so dismayed by the decision this week by Somali’s electoral body to postpone the country’s presidential elections for the third time that she thinks she will not run for president again, even if a new date is set.

“I think I am not going to run … because the level of corruption, the shocking level of corruption, it is all very, very disheartening, and I don’t want to legitimize something that is that bad by running in it,” Dayib said via Skype from Nairobi.

Washington Post

Ethiopia promises to support Somalia for peaceful polls

As the presidential election in Somalia approaches, the Ethiopian government has promised support assuring peaceful elections.

Though much of the country is still under the control of Islamist militant group Al Shabaab, especially after the withdrawal of the Ethiopian military, the Ethiopian government seems to be committed to working towards building a peaceful Somalia.

During a visit this week, Somali Prime Minister Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke met Ethiopian officials, including newly appointed Foreign Affairs Minister Workineh Gebeyehu.


Central African Republic

Central African Republic clashes leave 85 dead

The latest clashes between rival armed groups in the Central African Republic have left 85 dead, a government official said Monday, in what the UN warns is a worsening situation.

“This figure is confirmed,” said presidential spokesman Albert Mopkem, referring to a toll provided by Adama Dieng, a UN special envoy for the prevention of genocide.

Nearly half the population needs humanitarian assistance, according to the United Nations which has appealed for $399 million from donors to cover the country’s aid needs next year.

The latest deaths in the town of Bria, 400 kilometres (250 miles) northeast of Bangui, were amplified by 76 wounded and nearly 11,000 people being displaced in battles between factions of the former “Seleka” Muslim rebel group last week, Dieng said.


Half of population in Central African Republic need aid: U.N.

Nearly half of the population in war-torn Central African Republic – more than two million people – need humanitarian aid despite progress in stabilizing the country since it plunged into chaos in 2013, a United Nations official said on Monday.

The country has been plagued by conflict since March 2013, when mainly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power, triggering reprisals by Christian militias. Despite a February election seen as a step toward reconciliation, fighting still flares.

Deadly outbreaks of violence have erupted across the country since September, killing hundreds of civilians and forcing tens of thousands of people to flee their homes, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).



Opposition Forces Request Al Bashir to Step Down

On Wednesday, officials at the Republican Palace in Khartoum refused to accept a memorandum demanding President Omar Al Bashir immediately step down from power. Security agents blocked access to the premises of the Communist Party, and reportedly detained a number of party leaders.

More than 20 parties, organisations, and individuals, signed the memorandum in which they demand the president to hand the power to the Sudanese people.

Representatives of the National Consensus Forces (NCF, a coalition of leftist political parties), the Civil Society Initiative, and a number of public figures planned to hand the memo to the Sudanese president on Wednesday morning.

Three UN workers abducted in Darfur

Two Nepalese and one Sudanese UN staff taken to an unknown location by unidentified gunmen. Unidentified gunmen have kidnapped three workers from the United Nation’s refugee agency in Sudan’s restive Darfur region.

The three workers – one from Sudan and two from Nepal – were kidnapped on Sunday from Geneina, the capital of West Darfur state, and were taken to an unknown location, Abdallah Gar al-Nabi, West Darfur government spokesman, said on Monday.

UNHCR officials were not immediately available for comment, but its spokesman in Khartoum said a meeting was underway to discuss the “urgent incident”.


South Sudan

UN calls for end to restriction on humanitarian agencies in war-torn South Sudan

United Nations Official for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) said aid workers increasingly face “bureaucratic impediments”, and called on South Sudanese authorities to ensure unfettered access to the needy in the affected areas.

Eugene Owusu, the Humanitarian Coordinator for South Sudan and deputy head of UN mission in the country, said agencies registered more than cases of blockage to aid work in November.

“They (humanitarian organizations) continue to face obstacles and challenges which hamper their efforts. This must stop,” said Owusu in a statement extended to Sudan Tribune on Wednesday.

Sudan Tribune

UN warns of ‘ethnic cleansing’

Ethnic cleansing is taking place in war-torn South Sudan, the country’s UN human rights commission has warned. It says it has observed starvation, the burning of villages and rape being used as weapons of war across the country.

The three-member commission, which was established earlier this year, has just completed a 10-day visit to South Sudan, which has been blighted by conflict for more than three years. President Salva Kiir has denied that ethnic cleansing is taking place. In a statement released on Thursday, the commission says “the stage is being set for a repeat of what happened in Rwanda” in 1994 – a reference to the killing of 800,000 people, mostly Tutsis and moderate Hutus, in the space of three months.




Western Sahara

Morocco Accuses AU Chief of Obstructing Readmission

Morocco accused African Union Commission head Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma of blocking its efforts to rejoin the organization it left 32 years ago, the country’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

Morocco has asked the African Union (AU) to readmit it, as it seeks support for its plan to offer autonomy to the disputed territory of Western Sahara while keeping it under Moroccan sovereignty.

Morocco abandoned its seat in 1984 when the AU recognized Western Sahara, a sparsely populated stretch of desert that was formerly a Spanish protectorate, and admitted it as a member.

Voice of America

Morocco leads mass walkout at Africa-Arab summit over Western Sahara independence

Officials from Morocco, Somalia and seven Arab nations have walked out from an Africa-Arab summit in Equatorial Guinea in protest against the presence of a delegation from a movement that calls for the independence of Western Sahara. Morocco sees Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, as its “southern province”, and has occupied a large part of its territory since 1975.

Members of the Polisario Front (PF) seeks independence and calls for a referendum on self-determination.

The Moroccan delegation took the decision to protest at “the presence of the emblem of a puppet entity in the meeting rooms”, Moroccan news agency MAP said.

International Business Times


Madagascar aims for annual growth of 6.5 percent by 2019

Madagascar needs to achieve growth of 6.5 percent to help it reduce poverty, the president told a donor conference in Paris on Thursday.

Madagascar’s economy has been struggling since a 2009 coup scared off foreign investors. The country is one of the world’s poorest, despite reserves of nickel, cobalt, gold, uranium and other minerals.

“We need at least 6.5 percent annual growth rate. It is the only guarantor of the structural change that the country needs to reduce poverty,” President Hery Rajaonarimampianina told the conference.


Drought Causes Severe Hunger in Madagascar

Hunger levels are so severe in drought-ridden southern Madagascar that many people in remote villages have eaten almost nothing but cactus fruit for up to four years, said a Catholic Relief Services official.

Eating this fruit leaves crimson stains on people’s faces and hands, and there is a “shame of poverty associated with these stains in Madagascar,” an island nation 250 miles off the coast of mainland Africa, said Nancy McNally, CRS information officer for East and Southern Africa.

The cactus plant “is the only thing that grows” in southern Madagascar, and the plants “are growing everywhere” in earth “that looks like white silt,” she said in a Nov. 23 telephone interview from Nairobi, Kenya.

American Magazine


Swaziland Workers Demand Inquiry into Alleged Missing Public Funds

The Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) is threatening a “national shutdown” if Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini fails to ensure an independent investigation into alleged missing public funds from Treasury Department bank accounts.

This, after an independent forensic audit of the Accountant General’s office conducted by Kobla Quashie Consultants showed that the government Treasury Department bank accounts have a $360 million shortfall.

Local media reported that auditors fear there may have been fraud, misappropriation and embezzlement of the funds. The independent Times of Swaziland newspaper quoted Quashie as saying, “It should be stated that the amounts noted as differences are so significant that it renders the annual treasury accounts submitted to Parliament and other government agencies inaccurate and misleading.”

Voice of America

Political Bar in Swazi Broadcast Bill

People in Swaziland who are affiliated to any political group will not be granted radio or television broadcasting licences in a proposed law.

Swaziland is controlled by King Mswati III who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Broadcasting and newspapers in the kingdom are already heavily restricted. Political parties are not allowed to contest elections and those that advocate for democracy are in effect banned in Swaziland.

The Swaziland Broadcasting Bill was discussed by stakeholders at a workshop organised by the Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology at the Royal Swazi Sun Convention Centre.


Zim Opposition Political Parties Meet in SA

At least 12 Zimbabwean political parties have met at Stellenbosch University to discuss how they will compete in the 2018 elections.

The main opposition, the Movement for Democratic Party (MDC), however, did not take part in the discussions.

Talks of opposition parties forming a coalition ahead of the 2018 elections have been on the rise, mainly after the MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, and former vice-president and Zimbabwe People First (ZimPF) leader, Joice Mujuru made the announcement in August.

MDC Secretary General Douglas Mwonzora told News24 during an interview that his party did not participate in Wednesday’s discussions due to “differing agendas”.

Zimbabwe’s new currency, introduced on Monday, is already losing value

It may be in its infancy, but Zimbabwe’s new “bond note” currency is already coming under fire as some vendors refuse to accept it at face value.  Introduced by Robert Mugabe’s government on Monday as part of a desperate bid to stave off a cash flow crisis, the green notes are supposed to be traded 1 – 1 with the US dollar.

Zimbabwe abandoned its own currency in 2008 and officially adopted the American currency as its own. But continued economic uncertainty led people to stash dollars outside the country, prompting a critical shortage.

In Harare on Wednesday afternoon, a small group of protesters declaring “No To Bond Notes” took to the streets of the central business district.

Though no more than 100 turned out from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and the pressure group Tajamuka, they were quickly routed by riot police wielding water cannons and rubber truncheons.

Nehanda Radio

Africa in General

Namibia will stay in ICC – if US joins: Geingob

Namibia would remain a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC) if the United States joined, Namibia’s president Hage Geingob told Reuters in London on Thursday.

Namibia said in March that it would withdraw from the ICC, which sits in The Hague and has the jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. The court has come under criticism from African nations.

“People are saying that it only targets African leaders. That seems to be true … and that’s a problem,” said Geingob, who was elected as president of Namibia in November 2014.


Riek Machar denied entry to Ethiopia, returns to SA

Rebel leader and former South Sudan vice President Dr. Riek Machar was denied entry by the Department of Immigration and Nationality Affairs of Ethiopia to the country because of lack of proper documentation.

This move is seen as part of a regional policy to exclude him from the political process in South Sudan after Taban Deng’s appointment as First Vice President.

According to a report by a state media, Fana Broadcasting Corporate, the Department was forced to return Machar to South Africa because he has no permission to stay in Addis Ababa.



South Africa makes history with HIV vaccine trial

South Africa is participating in an experimental vaccine programme that could prevent HIV infection. With 5 400 adults taking part, the study, called HVTN 702, is the biggest and most advanced HIV vaccine trial to take place in the country.

The drug trial began last month.

“If deployed alongside our current armoury of proven HIV prevention tools, a safe and effective vaccine could be the final nail in the coffin for HIV,” said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which falls under the American National Institutes of Health (NIH), a co-funder of the trial.

South African Info

President Salva Kiir in SA

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday held talks with President Salva Kiir Mayardit of the Republic of South Sudan in Pretoria.

Deputy President Ramaphosa, in his capacity as Special Envoy to South Sudan, said he was satisfied that peace is taking hold over the newest country in Africa. The East African country has been beset with conflict between government and opposition forces.

South Africa has been instrumental in negotiating peace to stabilise South Sudan through its participation in the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Plus Peace Process, and the inter-party process led by the African National Congress and Chama Cha Mapinduzi of Tanzania.