News Briefs 20 April 2021

Southern Africa


Zanu-PF Brutality Could Plunge Country into Moza Chaos – Chamisa

MDC Alliance leader, Nelson Chamisa says the country risked plunging into extremism just witnessed in neighbouring Mozambique if the ruling Zanu PF party persists with its brutal politics.

The opposition leader was delivering his Independence Day keynote address Sunday.

Chamisa said Zimbabwe risked becoming a breeding ground for radicalisation if authorities continued to take a hard-line stance on citizen rights.

The opposition leader said despite four decades of independence, the nation was still being confronted with the Zanu PF minority system based on “brutality, marginalisation and discrimination, impunity and persecution using the Rhodesian manual or template of repression”.

AllAfrica 19 April 2021

Freedom deferred: Zimbabwe at 41 years of independence

The 18th of April 1980 officially marked the end of British colonial rule in what was Rhodesia and the establishment of a nation called Zimbabwe.

This year Zimbabwe turns 41 amid growing fear among citizens, repression, human rights abuses and closure of democratic space. This is a day to celebrate, yet for many Zimbabweans it is just like any other ordinary day as it symbolises a betrayal by the liberation generation who, from liberators, have morphed into oppressors.

Traditionally government organised festivities (mainly attended by ruling ZANU-PF supporters) are conducted around the country. At the main ceremony, the so-called eternal flame of independence is lit each year for good wishes for the nation’s future. However, this will be the second year when no physical event will be held due to Covid-19. 

As we reflect on the journey travelled over the past 41 years it is important to draw parallels between the character of the colonial era and the status quo. The simple dictionary meaning of “independence” is “freedom from the control or influence of others.” For Zimbabwe, that freedom was from the British. Independence was a product of a protracted liberation struggle mounted to ensure that there’s an equal and just society where fundamental human rights are respected, equal access to economic resources, ie land, and economic emancipation and an end to minority rule.

Daily Maverick 18 April 2021


eSwatini Parliament starts to push back

King Mswati III turns 53 today. Fresh from Sherbone School in Dorset, England, he ascended the throne at just 18, inheriting a system carefully built by his father, King Sobhuza II. Over the years, he has exercised control over the country, routinely quelling dissent and populating institutions with people agreeable to him and his policies across all three spheres of government.

Now, 35 years later, one institution – Parliament’s House of Assembly – is showing signs of independence, vigorously debating the government’s bills and notices to the point of rejecting some. But there is no official opposition in the house, owing to there being no political party representation. Instead, some members of Parliament (MPs) have formed a collective akin to one.

Radical MPs have steadfastly opposed some of the government’s laws and positions, but they are few and have had little support and impact on decision-making. This could change, though, as the number of MPs who have organised themselves into an effective coalition has progressed and they are critically debating bills, raising motions and defeating many of the government’s positions.

New Frame 19 April 2021

Clean, Hot Water Installed at All eSwatini Clinics

For more than a year, nurse Lindiwe Magongo has seen to the needs of 600 patients per week at her small clinic near the capital of eSwatini, the nation formerly known as Swaziland.

And until very recently, she’s fought both ordinary health issues and the global coronavirus pandemic without the most basic health care tool: clean, hot water.

Doctors say handwashing, hygiene and sanitation are key to curbing the spread of illness. The coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 disease, has claimed nearly 700 lives in this nation of just over one million people. But before the pandemic hit, 82 percent of clinics in this small, landlocked southern African nation lacked this vital tool. In recent months, a multinational initiative has installed an outdoor solar-powered handwashing station in every clinic.

Voice of America 29 March 2021

Democratic Republic of Congo

DR Congo still gripped with violence despite new government

Violence has once again escalated in the cities of Goma, Beni and Butembo in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo). A group of young people destroyed houses and shops and torched car tires to show their anger with the United Nations’ (UN) blue helmets, who are part of the ongoing MONUSCO peacekeeping mission, alongside the Congolese army and the police.

The combined security forces appear to have proved incapable of protecting the population from marauding gangs and militias in the region.

In the past few weeks, rebel attacks have risen sharply. According to the UN, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), affiliated with the so-called Islamic State, have killed more than 200 people since the beginning of the year and forced another 40,000 to flee their homes.

Now the patience of many young people is wearing thin. They have taken to shouting slogans directed at security forces, such as: “You have failed miserably,” “you do not protect the civilian population,” and even: “You are accomplices of the enemy.”

DW 18 April 2021

Violent attacks displace thousands in DR Congo’s Kasai Region

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is alarmed by a resurgence of violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Great Kasai Region, that has already displaced thousands of civilians.

According to local authorities, an estimated 21,000 Congolese – mainly women and children – have been displaced since 28 March by clashes between Luba and Kuba ethnic groups in Kasai’s Bakwakenge locality.

There have also been reports of at least 13 people being killed, many left injured and 190 houses burnt to the ground.

The Kasai Region has been recovering from violence in 2017 that displaced 1.4 million people within the DRC and forced 35,000 refugees to seek safety in Angola.

UNHCR is calling for a renewed focus on restoring peace and defusing tensions in Kasai to prevent another wave of mass displacement in the country.

Relief Web 16 April 2021

Central and the Horn of Africa

7,000 Central African Republic refugees arrive in Chad

At least 7,000 refugees from the Central African Republic have arrived in Chad for the past few days, the UN refugee agency said on Sunday.

In a series of tweets, the UNHCR said that as of March 31, some 107,280 Central African refugees and asylum seekers were living in Chad.

The situation in the landlocked African country worsened after the rejection of former President Francois Bozize’s candidacy for the December 2020 presidential election.

Hostilities between a coalition of non-state armed groups and the government forces have continued over the last four months, plunging the country into a new cycle of violence.

Anadolu Agency 18 April 2021

The Death of a Warlord in the Central African Republic

The death of one of the most brutal warlords in the Central African Republic was confirmed earlier this month. Sidiki Abbas, the president and founder of Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation, or 3R, leaves a legacy of ruthless violence and abuse in the northwestern Ouham Pendé province. Over the past six years, I interviewed scores of victims and survivors of 3R attacks who described being raped, seeing their loved ones shot down, or watching their homes destroyed.

The 3R group emerged in late 2015 asserting that they were needed to protect the minority Peuhl population from attacks by anti-balaka militia who were targeting Muslims. Despite his role in widespread atrocities, including war crimes and possible crimes against humanity, in March 2019 Abbas was named a special military adviser to the prime minister’s office as a concession under a peace accord signed a month earlier in Khartoum, Sudan.

Yet attacks by his fighters continued. In May 2019, 3R fighters killed at least 46 civilians in Ouham-Pendé province. On May 20, the day before one of these attacks on Bohong town, Abbas warned local authorities, “You can’t bring me war. I will bring it to you, and I will show you how to shoot. I will show you who I am.” The next day his fighters killed at least 10 civilians and Abbas was later seen coordinating looted goods onto trucks.

Human Rights Watch 16 April 2021


Somalia: Al-Shabaab militants arrested by AMISOM forces

The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) said on Monday that a joined operation by Burundian and Somali government forces arrested Al-Shabaab militants.

The operation took place in the Gololey and El-Gelow villages of Bal’ad district in the Middle Shabelle region. These areas have experienced a series of landmine and ambush attacks targeting government forces, AMISOM and Somali officials travelling on the road between Jowhar and the capital Mogadishu.

“AMISOM troops from Burundi based in Gololey & El-Gelow have launched a joint operation with the Somali National Army. Several al-Shabaab fighters have been arrested and handed over to the Somali Police Force for further investigation,” AMISOM said in a statement.

Somali Affairs 19 April 2021

?U condemns move to extend Somalia president’s term, warns of ‘further measures’

The European Union has threatened to take “further measures” against Somalia if it fails to resume talks to end the elections deadlock.

“We call for an immediate return to talks on the holding of elections without delay based on the September 17 agreement. Failing this, the EU will consider further concrete measures,” the Union’s External Action Service (EEAS) said in a statement issued on Tuesday.

The move announcement came after the Lower house of the Somalia Parliament voted overwhelmingly to de facto extend by two years the term of the country’s president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, and of the federal government.

The statement adds that the EU has repeatedly stated that it can “under no circumstances” accept an extension of the government mandate, or any partial or parallel process related to the elections, unless the parties to the 17 September electoral agreement previously reach an agreement.

New Europe 16 April 2021


Sudan calls on African countries to support reaching comprehensive solutions on Nile dam

Sudan on Sunday called on African countries to support the efforts in reaching comprehensive and satisfactory solutions to all parties regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

Sudan’s Foreign Minister Mariam Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi on Sunday held a virtual meeting with Ambassadors of African Union (AU) Member States accredited to Sudan, said Sudan’s foreign ministry in a statement.

The Sudanese minister briefed the African diplomats on the outcome of the Nile dam talks recently held in Kinshasa, reiterating Sudan’s firm position on the necessity of reaching a binding agreement before Ethiopia proceeds with the 2nd filling of the GERD, it noted.

She said that Sudan was looking forward towards African countries’ support to reach comprehensive and satisfactory solutions to all parties.

Meanwhile, Sudan’s Irrigation and Water Resources Minister Yasir Abbas reviewed the technical measures of the proposals presented during the talks.

Xinhua 18 April 2021

Sudan scraps planned visit to Israel

Sudan denied on Friday reports that it would send its first delegation to Israel months after a deal for ties between the two countries, and two Sudanese sources said Khartoum had scrapped a planned visit.

Sources had previously said that a Sudanese delegation comprising security and intelligence officials would travel to Israel next week.

Sudan agreed to take steps towards normal ties with Israel last year in a deal brokered by then US President Donald Trump’s administration. This month, Sudan’s cabinet voted to repeal a 1958 law to boycott Israel.

The issue is divisive in Sudan, which is going through a delicate political transition following the overthrow of former leader Omar al-Bashir in 2019.

Two official Sudanese sources said that an invitation to visit Israel had been accepted, but that plans had later changed. They gave no explanation for the change.

The Arab Weekly 17 April 2021

South Sudan

South Sudan Government Reshuffle Emboldens Rights Abusers

South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir, with apparent disregard for the many crimes committed by the National Security Service (NSS), promoted one of its top officials, Akol Koor Kuc, to the rank of First Lieutenant General. This move is yet another slap in the face to the many victims of the NSS’s horrific and well-documented crimes committed under Kuc’s watch.

In a December report, Human Rights Watch documented how the NSS has become the favored tool for South Sudan’s leadership to carry out arbitrary arrests, abusive detentions, torture, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and illegal surveillance. It has regularly targeted journalists, activists, opposition figures, and critics. All of this has occurred with little to no accountability or justice for victims.

We found that Kuc, who heads the internal security bureau, together with the Minister for National Security, Mamur Obote, and outgoing head of the General Intelligence Bureau, Thomas Duoth Guet (now appointed as South Sudan’s ambassador to Kuwait), failed to end systemic human rights violations by the NSS or ensure credible investigations and criminal accountability for officers implicated in abuse.

Human Rights Watch 10 April 2021

It is time to fix South Sudan’s broken healthcare system

At the height of the pandemic last April, I saw Facebook posts from friends and relatives in South Sudan showing top-level government officials wearing clip-on tags dubbed “virus removal cards”. The cards were said to contain chemicals that could prevent COVID-19.

President Salva Kiir, his deputy, Riek Machar, defence minister Angelina Teny, and other ministers were all spotted wearing the cards.

I was not entirely surprised that a clever entrepreneur was out to make money from the pandemic. In Juba, the cards were selling for between $20 and $30. Elsewhere, similar cards were being sold in Japan, Lebanon, and the Philippines.

Manufacturers claimed that the cards’ main ingredient – chlorine dioxide – could kill bacteria and viruses. It is usually used to disinfect water and sterilise medical equipment.

Aljazeera 13 April 2021

North Africa

Western Sahara demands UN seat, blasts France and Spain

Western Sahara’s foreign minister Mohamed Salem Ould Salek on Monday demanded a UN seat for the disputed territory and accused France and Spain of impeding a referendum on self-determination.

The status of Western Sahara, which the United Nations classifies as a “non-self-governing territory”, has for decades pitted Morocco against the pro-independence Polisario Front.

“The Sahrawi state claims its seat at the UN,” said Ould Salek, on behalf the republic declared by the Polisario in 1976.

The republic, as a founding member of the African Union, “demands its rightful place” among world nations, he told a news conference in Algiers, allies of the Polisario.

France24 05 April 2021

Scholars Support US Recognition of Moroccan Sovereignty Over Western Sahara – OpEd

In a strategic move, the US decided to recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over Moroccan Sahara, or Western Sahara, in December 2020 and fully endorse Morocco’s autonomy plan as a viable solution to the 46-year-old conflict.

A virtual event was recently organized by the New York City Bar Association (NYCBAR) with the theme “Should President Biden endorse former President Trump’s decision to recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara?”

Several top American scholars strongly supported Washington’s 2020 decision over Moroccan Sahara at the one-day webcast on April 14.

Speaking at the webcast, Elliott Abrams, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and former assistant secretary of state, said that Joe Biden’s administration should stick to Washington’s December 2020 decision because Morocco is a “long-standing, loyal, strategic ally” of the US.

Eurasia Review 19 April 2021

International Affairs Brief


Outcry in Myanmar as military airs images of ‘tortured’ detainees

A monitoring group in Myanmar has appealed for international action, expressing concern over the torture and murder of anti-coup protesters in the Southeast Asian nation after the military broadcast images of six young detainees bearing severe signs of abuse.

In the pictures broadcast on military-owned MRTV on Sunday evening, the faces of four men and two women appeared bloodied and bruised. One of the women had a swollen jaw and what appeared to be a black eye.

“This junta uses torture as its policy,” the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) said in a tweet.

“If the international community does not act, torture and to death, will clearly continue.”

Aljazeera 19 April 2021

Myanmar: Civil servants face junta pressure to return to work

As a civil disobedience movement (CDM) grows in popularity in Myanmar, the military has started ramping up pressure on government employees to return to work, while businesses struggle under the weight of missing employees and internet blackouts.

Civil servants started refusing to carry out their duties, just days after the February 1 coup, when the military seized power. The movement has been expanding since then, with widespread support from both inside and outside of the country, and a 2022 Nobel Peace Prize nomination.

However, the junta has been pushing government workers participating in the movement to go back to work, using forceful tactics. In one case, government hospitals in cities began issuing letters to medical workers to come back to work. In another instance, a CDM-affiliated railway worker was forced to leave his government apartment.

DW 19 April 2021


Detention of Jerusalem candidates threatens Palestinian pollIsraeli briefly detained three Jerusalem-based candidates for Palestinian legislative elections on Saturday, deepening a dispute over whether banning Palestinian residents of east Jerusalem from voting in next month’s polls could derail them.

The three candidates represent factions of the Palestine Liberation Organization who planned a press conference in a Jerusalem hotel to call for the need to press Israel into allowing political activities in the eastern part of the city, reported the official Palestinian news agency, Wafa.

In briefly detaining the candidates, Israel appears to be signaling it will not tolerate Palestinian political activity in east Jerusalem. It has not said whether it will or will not allow Palestinian residents of east Jerusalem to vote in the election.

Egypt Independent 18 April 2021