News Briefs 20 July 2018

Democratic Republic of Congo

Kabila Says Election On Track but Stays Mum On Own Future

Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila said in a speech on Thursday that a presidential election in December would go ahead as planned, but he declined to say whether he would defy term limits to stand for re-election.

Kabila is barred by the constitution from seeking a third term in the election but has refused publicly to rule out a run. Some of his allies have in recent weeks advanced a legal argument they say would justify his candidacy.

If Kabila does step down, it would mark Congo’s first democratic transition since independence from Belgium in 1960, after decades marked by authoritarian rule, coups and catastrophic civil wars.

The deadline for candidates to declare they will run is in just under three weeks. But in an address before a joint session of parliament, Kabila avoided saying whether he would stand.


Eight killed in rebel attack on DR Congo army base

Eight people were killed on Monday during an attack attributed to Ugandan Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels in the restive eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, according to sources.

The attack targeted an army position in Kabasewa, 60km east of Beni in North Kivu province.

“We deplore the death of three soldiers, while three others are wounded,” said Captain Mak Hazukay, spokesman for the army in the region, adding that two rebels were also killed.

He said the attackers “looted the health centre pharmacy”, took cattle, and made the villagers carry their stolen goods.

Noella Muliwavyo, a civil society leader in Beni, told AFP that “three civilians were also killed, including a nurse” during the raid on the pharmacy, bringing the death toll to eight.



International community strengthens support for Somalia’s plans for stability and development

Somalia will benefit from renewed international support, both politically and financially, as the country implements key reforms to overcome years of conflict and secure a better future for the Somali people.

Today, international stakeholders gathered in Brussels for the Somalia Partnership Forum, organised by the European Union together with the Federal Government of Somalia and Sweden. Over 60 delegations took part and agreed on joint commitments in key areas for inclusive politics, peace and security and economic recovery in Somalia.

High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini said: “The European Union is leading the international partnership to strengthen Somalia’s political, economic and security reform agenda. Today, I announced that the EU will provide additional €200 million to support Somalia’s overall stabilisation to create a better future for its people. I also signed the EU’s contribution of €114.2 million for the African Union Mission to Somalia until the end of this year. The stability and development of the country is also critical for the stability of the broader region and for Europe.”

The President of Somalia Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed said: “The Federal Government of Somalia is fully committed to implement the Political Roadmap 2020, Transition plan for security, economic reform and reach out to the whole of Somalia for reconciliation and dialogue. The Somalia Partnership Forum is key for strengthened partnerships with our regional and international partners. We want to work according to the theme of the forum – forward together.”

EU Commission

Cancel Somalia’s debt to help stop the humanitarian crisis, says World Vision

Somalia’s public debt should be cancelled to help bring the humanitarian crisis in the country to an end, World Vision has said.

Speaking this week, as the Somalia Partnership Forum was held in Brussels, World Vision said that the country’s £5.1 billion of debt should be wiped out, to enable it to move beyond the current situation.

On Monday, the director of advocacy and external engagement for World Vision in Somalia, Geeta Bandi-Phillips, said: “Somalia can’t even afford infrastructure to help its own people, let alone afford its debt”; so the UK Government should push for international creditors to cancel it.

“If the debt was cancelled,” she said, “then Somalia would be able to access development funds from international financial institutions like the World Bank and the IMF, which means they will be able to build infrastructure to help their own people, from hospitals to schools.

“The international-development and humanitarian sector won’t benefit if the debt is cancelled: only Somalia will benefit, and its people. If this happens, Somalia will slowly come out of the humanitarian situation, and so eventually countries can withdraw.”

Church Times

Central African Republic

UN: 1 dead, at least 20 injured in Central African Republic

The United Nations says at least one civilian was killed and more than 20 others were injured along with three U.N. peacekeepers during an exchange of fire in the Central African Republic between U.N. troops and fighters from the mainly Christian anti-Balaka militia.

U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said the peacekeepers were responding to an anti-Balaka attack on Pombolo village in south-eastern Mbomou prefecture Tuesday.

He said the U.N. mission in Central African Republic reported that “the assailants fled into nearby bushes” and villagers sought protection outside the U.N. base where the injured received first aid.

Haq said militia casualties are being verified.

National Post

Rebel Leader Killed in CAR Communal Violence

At least three people have been killed following an alleged livestock theft in the crisis-torn Central African Republic (CAR).

A local rebel leader is among those killed following the clash in the Ngakobo village, 60 kilometres from the southern Bambari towards the border with the equally-troubled Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) reported the incident pitted rival communities in the area, which is among regions torn along ethnic lines.

“This incident created mistrust between the different communities,” a UN spokesperson said.



Sudan blocks world media from covering al-Sisi visit

Sudanese authorities have banned the international media from covering the visit of Egypt’s president to Sudan set to start on Thursday.

Egyptian President Abdul Fatah al-Sisi is due to arrive for a two-day visit to Khartoum today to meet his Sudanese counterpart Omer al-Bashir.

Correspondents working for international media got a message from the Sudanese Information Ministry ordering them not to cover the visit, explaining that the move is parallel to Egyptian authorities’ treatment during Bashir’s visit this March.

“As we adopt the similar treatment conducted by Egyptian authorities during the visit of President Bashir to Cairo, we announce that coverage of the visit of Egyptian President Abdul Fatah al-Sisi is only allowed for state and local media outlets,” the message said.


As Sudan currency continues descent, inflation hits 64 percent in June

Sudan’s inflation rose to 63.87 percent year-on-year in June, from 60.93 percent in May, the state statistics agency said on Thursday, as the dollar-starved country grapples with an economic crisis.

Sudan has been reeling from an acute shortage of foreign currency and an increasingly expensive black market for dollars that has sapped its ability to import and made prices soar, kindling unrest earlier this year in some parts of the country.

The import-dependent country’s price rises have been the third fastest in the world in recent months, behind only war-torn South Sudan and hyperinflation-stricken Venezuela, according to IMF data from April.

The statistics agency said June inflation was driven by rising food and beverage prices.

The severe downturn comes despite the United States lifting 20-year old sanctions last year, a move that was expected to be a boon for the long isolated economy.




South Sudan

South Sudan’s President Kiir Says Ready to Accept Peace Deal

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir said he is ready to accept a peace deal to end a civil war and set up an inclusive new government.

The deal being negotiated in Sudan would give the country five vice presidents and also covers security and power sharing.

“The people of South Sudan are looking for peace and if that arrangement can bring about peace to the people of South Sudan, I am ready to take it,” said Kiir late on Wednesday at a swearing-in ceremony for his foreign minister.

“People talk about exclusivity nobody is to be left out of the government. I accept it” he said.


UN Security Council imposes arms embargo on South Sudan

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has imposed an arms embargo on South Sudan as a measure to prevent the flow of weapons to armed groups in the war-hit nation.

The members who backed the imposition of the ban believe such a move would help protect civilians, while others raised concerns that the policy would hinder the ongoing peace process in the nation, the Sudan Tribune reported.

The remaining six countries which abstained from agreeing to the resolution include Bolivia, China, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Kazakhstan and Russia.

Under the resolution, UN member states are obliged to prevent the entry of arms and related equipment of all types, including weapons and ammunition, military vehicles and equipment, paramilitary equipment and other spare parts, in South Sudan.

Engineering News

Western Sahara

Creation of African mechanism for Western Sahara, important step in resolving conflict

The “historic” decision adopted unanimously by the leaders of the African Union (AU) on the creation of an African mechanism for the issue of Western Sahara is an “anticipatory initiative” likely to revitalize AU’s key role, as a fully-committed partner for the United Nations (UN),  and an “important step” considering the Moroccan position aimed at undermining the African efforts for the settlement of the conflict in Western Sahara, said Thursday the Polisario Front in a letter sent to the United Nations and the Security Council.

In a letter sent to UN Secretary General Antonio Guteres and Sweden’s permanent representative to UN Olof Skoog, in his capacity as president of the Security Council for this month, “the Polisario Front expressed the Sahrawi authorities’ position on the new mechanism created by the African Union for Western Sahara in accordance with its decision adopted in the 31st ordinary session of the Conference of AU Heads of State and Government, held recently in Nouakchott,” said a communiqué of the Polisario Front.

The letter emphasized that the Sahrawi authorities welcomed “the historic decision” adopted unanimously by AU’s leaders on the creation of an African mechanism for Western Sahara, pointing out that it reflects AU’s concern over the unjustified delay in the decolonization process of Western Sahara, member State of the African Union.”

Sahara Press Service

EU foreign ministers to include Western Sahara under agricultural agreement with Morocco

European Union (EU) foreign ministers have approved a resolution to include the disputed Western Sahara region under an agricultural agreement signed with Morocco, the Maghreb Arab Press (MAP) reported.

“The decision aims to strengthen the legal basis for products exported from the Western Sahara region to the European Union, with commercial preferences and supporting the region’s development” MAP quoted an unnamed European source as saying.

“The decision will also enable the EU to continue to boost its partnership with Morocco and lead the way on the fishing agreement between the two partners in the coming months” the source added.

Middle East Monitor


Swaziland holds its first-ever pride parade

In a historic and festive celebration, Swaziland held its first-ever LGBT pride parade over the weekend.

Hundreds of people marched down the streets of the capital Mbabane waving rainbow flags and holding signs that read, “Turn hate into love” — a scene almost unimaginable not so long ago.

The small southern African country, recently renamed the Kingdom of eSwatini by its king, is Africa’s last absolute monarchy and has a bleak record on LGBT rights. The country of 1.4 million also has the world’s highest HIV/AIDS rates and suffers from severe poverty.

Saturday’s parade was organized by the Rock of Hope, a local nonprofit, and supported by international LGBT advocacy organizations.


Swaziland or eSwatini? King’s new name faces legal challenge

A human rights activist in Swaziland is challenging King Mswati III’s decision to change the tiny southern African nation’s name to the Kingdom of eSwatini.

Africa’s last absolute monarch announced the new name in April at celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of Swazi independence from Britain.

However, activist Thulani Maseko argued in a High Court submission that the decision undermined the constitution and was a waste of money, especially in a country with the world’s highest HIV/AIDS rate. He asked that the court set aside the decision as the product of the whim of the UK-educated monarch taken without any public consultation, court papers showed on Friday.



C’wealth assigns Zim poll observer team

The Commonwealth has assigned a team to observe Zimbabwe’s forthcoming elections.

In May, President Mnangagwa wrote to Commonwealth secretary-general Patricia Scotland expressing interest, in principle, in re-joining the association, and requesting the Commonwealth to observe its forthcoming elections.

Zimbabwe pulled out of the organisation made up primarily of countries that were once part of the British Empire in 2003 following disagreements over land reform and the country’s electoral processes.

However, ever since being sworn into office, President Mnangagwa has gone on a re-engagement onslaught, thawing relations with the West and declaring that the country is now open for business.

In a statement yesterday, the Commonweath announced that former Ghanaian president John Dramani Mahama will lead a 24-member team to observe the July 30 elections.


Zim on right trajectory: US envoy

Reforms being undertaken by President Mnangagwa’s Government have put the country on a path to prosperity, newly-accredited United States Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Brian Nichols said yesterday.

This comes as Austria’s new envoy Mr Johann Brieger said credible elections were on the cards in Zimbabwe, as the democratic space had been opened up by the new administration.

The envoys made the remarks after presenting their credentials to President Mnangagwa at State House in Harare yesterday.

Also to present his credentials was Mr Eric Saizonou, who becomes Benin’s first Ambassador to Zimbabwe.




Africa in General

Somalia, Tunisia join Comesa

The membership COMESA has risen to 21 following the admission of Tunisia and Somalia at the 20th Summit of the Heads of State and Government that had concluded today in Lusaka, Zambia.

Tunisia was admitted as the 20th member while Somalia followed as 21st member of COMESA after having fulfilled the COMESA terms and conditions of accession to the COMESA Treaty.

Tunisia first applied for observer status in COMESA in 2005 but the matter was not concluded. In February 2016, the country formally wrote to the Secretary General making enquiries on joining.

Somalia was formerly a full member of the Preferential Trade Area for Eastern and Southern Africa (PTA), the predecessor to COMESA. However, it failed to make the transition due to lack of government following a long civil war. Tunisia first applied for observer status in COMESA in 2005 but the matter was not concluded.

Daily Monitor

US allows hundreds of Somalis to stay until at least March 2020

Nearly 500 Somalis who escaped terrorism and drought will be allowed to remain in the US until at least March 2020, the US homeland security department announced on Thursday.

Concerns had been raised that the administration would cancel the temporary protected status (TPS) program for Somalis because of Trump’s anti-immigrant policies and the decision to end TPS status for more than 428,250 others. But the DHS granted them permission to stay temporarily, owing to the “ongoing armed conflict and extraordinary conditions” in Somalia.

This decision is a relief for TPS holders such as Yasir, who fled Somalia after being kidnapped and tortured by the al-Qaida-affiliated extremist group al-Shabaab. “I’m scared of going back to Somalia and being killed by al-Shabaab,” Yasir told the Guardian.

The Guardian

Party names ex-warlord Bemba candidate for DRC presidential poll

The former vice president of DR Congo Jean-Pierre Bemba, who was acquitted last month of war crimes, was on Friday named by his party as a candidate in presidential polls planned for December.

“We unanimously decided to renew Senator Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo as national president of the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo for a five-year term and to name him as our candidate for the presidential election of December 23, 2018,” said the party’s Jean Jacques Mamba.

Earlier this week, the DRC said Bemba could apply for a diplomatic passport to return home after he was acquitted of war crimes in The Hague.

The DRC is in the grip of a crisis over the future of President Joseph Kabila, who has ruled the country since 2001 and has remained in office, despite a two-term constitutional limit that expired in December 2016.


Ramaphosa set to meet Moseneke-led Lesotho mediation team

The SADC mediation facilitation team on Lesotho, led by former deputy chief justice of South Africa Dikgang Moseneke, is set to meet President Cyril Ramaphosa on Friday, the Presidency said.

“The SADC (Southern African Development Community) Double Troika held on 24 April 2018 in Luanda, Republic of Angola, agreed that President Ramaphosa should continue to facilitate the political national dialogue and reform processes in the Kingdom of Lesotho since the President was appointed by the SADC Heads of State and Government as a SADC Facilitator, following the country’s security and political challenges in September 2014,” the Presidency said in a statement.

“His [Ramaphosa] facilitation produced a report with key recommendations (constitutional, security sector, judiciary, and public service and media reforms) which the government and people of Lesotho have committed themselves to undertake as they attempt to resolve their political and security challenges.”