News Briefs 20 October 2017


Zimbabwe To Slash Budget Deficit Despite Looming Elections

Zimbabwe plans to cut its budget deficit by half next year to 4% of GDP, the national Treasury said, an ambitious goal at a time when the country is expected to hold a presidential vote that veteran President Robert Mugabe is set to contest.

The southern African country has over the last four years failed to cut its deficit despite promises to do so, mainly due to high government spending on public sector salaries, which accounted for more than 90% of the 2016 budget.

In an election year Mugabe’s government is unlikely to reduce spending, economic analysts said, making it difficult to cut the deficit to 4% of the gross domestic product. This year the government targets a deficit of 8.4% for GDP.


Democratic Republic of Congo

Neutralise Threats by Negative Forces in DRC – UN

THE United Nations has called for vigorous action to neutralise the continued threats posed by negative forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Great Lakes Region.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has also encouraged armed forces in the DRC to step up their operations in collaboration with other stakeholders against armed groups still active in the country.

“I see four priority areas for our collective efforts. First vigorous action is needed to neutralise the continued threats posed by negative forces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the region as a whole,” Mr Guterres said.

Addressing the 7th Summit of Heads of State and Government of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) in Brazaville, Republic of Congo yesterday, Mr Guterres in a speech read for him by Special UN Envoy to the Great Lakes Region Said Djiniti said the UN continued offering support to protect civilians in the Congo from all armed groups still active in the DRC.

Time of Zambia

DR Congo controversially elected to UN Human Rights Council

Congo’s election to the UN’s Human Rights Council has been criticized because of the country’s human rights record. “This is like making a pyromaniac the town fire chief,” head of the NGO UN Watch, Hillel Neuer, said.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was one of 15 states chosen on Monday after a vote by the 193-member General Assembly as rights representatives for three-year terms starting in January 2018.

Afghanistan, Angola, Australia, Chile, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Qatar, Senegal, Slovakia, Spain and Ukraine were also elected.

The Human Rights Council is made up of 47 UN member states elected through direct and secret ballots.



Death Toll in Somalia Attack Rises To 263

At least 263 people were killed by twin bomb explosions in the heart of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, doctors said on Monday, confirming the deadliest attack since an Islamist insurgency began in 2007.

Aden Nur, a doctor at the city’s Madina hospital, said it had recorded 258 deaths while Ahmed Ali, a nurse at the nearby Osman Fiqi hospital, told Reuters five bodies had been sent there.

President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo declared three days of national mourning and called for donations of blood and funds to victims of Saturday’s attack.


EU Releases Emergency Aid Following Somalia Attack

The funding will help to provide critical medical and surgical interventions and supplies, human resources, and psycho-social support in the aftermath of the bombing in the Somali capital.

“The world has been watching in dismay, shock and sadness as the magnitude of last Saturday’s terror attack in Mogadishu has been unfolding.

The loss of innocent human life is appalling. This initial EU aid will help our partner IMC scale up the medical response and urgently treat the hundreds of wounded that need immediate life-saving assistance,” said Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides.


Central African Republic

UN chief heading to conflict-torn Central African Republic

The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday he is going to conflict-torn Central African Republic next week to spotlight growing communal tensions, spreading violence and deteriorating humanitarian situation as well as highlight the work of UN peacekeepers.

He said at a news conference that since Jan. 1 the number of internally displaced people has almost doubled to 600 000 and the number of refugees who have fled the country has surpassed 500 000. So far this year, 12 peacekeepers have been killed by hostile acts and 12 humanitarian workers have also been killed, “making it one of the world’s most dangerous places for aid workers to serve,” he said.


UN forced to halve rations in Central African Republic

A UN humanitarian official warns that aid workers have had to cut rations in half across Central African Republic because of underfunding.

Najat Rochdi, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator in Central African Republic, said on Tuesday that operations have been suspended entirely in some remote areas of the southeast because aid could only be delivered there by air and had become too expensive.

Central African Republic has suffered waves of communal violence since late 2013 and officials have said the violence now approaches the bloodshed seen during the peak of the earlier crisis.




Injured Victims of Somalia Blast Arrive in Sudan

Dozens of people injured by Saturday’s terrorist bombing in Mogadishu – which left at least 267 people dead – have arrived in Khartoum for medical treatment, Sudan’s local health minister told reporters today.

According to Mamoun Humaida, 82 people seriously injured by Saturday’s truck-bombing are now set to receive treatment at different hospitals in Khartoum.

“Two separate batches of injured Somalis have been evacuated [from Mogadishu] to receive urgent medical treatment here,” Humaida said.


Sudan, Central African Republic discuss economic relations

Sudan and the Central African Republic discussed Thursday the development of economic relations within the framework of regional efforts to bring stability in the troubled central African country.

The President of the Central African Republic, Faustin-Archange Touadera and the Sudanese Vice President Hassabo Abdel Rahman discussed bilateral relationship on the sidelines of the meetings of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) held in Brazzaville the capital of the Republic of Congo.

In a statement issued after the meeting, the state minister for foreign affairs Atta Almannan Bakheit said President Touadera showed their interest to develop the old economic relations with its northeastern neighbour the Sudan and to use the Port Sudan as a seaport for his country.

Sudan Tribune

South Sudan

South Sudan forces ‘assaulted’ UN commander

South Sudanese forces stopped a UN peacekeeping convoy at gunpoint and beat the unit’s commander in the latest clash with peacekeepers in the war-wracked African country, a report obtained by AFP on Thursday said.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Security Council that South Sudan’s defence minister had apologised for the September 21 incident in Juba, the capital.

About 100 officers from South Sudan’s national security service “surrounded the convoy and pointed weapons at the vehicles,” said the confidential report sent to the council on Monday.




U.N. Peacekeeping Chief Issues Warning on South Sudan

The leader of United Nations’ peacekeeping operations offered a dire appraisal of South Sudan on Tuesday, saying the world’s youngest nation is sliding further into mayhem with no sign that its antagonists want peace.

In a report to the United Nations Security Council, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, the under secretary general of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, called upon the leaders of South Sudan’s warring factions to “bring the country back from the impending abyss.”

Mr. Lacroix said that a diplomatic effort by eight African nations to revitalize a 2015 peace agreement in South Sudan had received only a “lukewarm response” from the government of President Salva Kiir, and that Mr. Kiir’s political adversaries also remained cautious about it.

New York Times

Western Sahara

UN envoy meets W Sahara independence leaders in bid to restart talks

The new UN envoy for disputed Western Sahara, Horst Koehler, met leaders of an Algerian-backed independence movement on Wednesday after visiting Morocco in a bid to get stalled peace talks back on track.

Koehler, a former German president tasked by the United Nations in August with mediating the decades-old dispute, sat down with leaders from the pro-independence Polisario Front as he made his first trip to the refugee camps in Algeria where they are based.

The meeting is part of a fresh push by the United Nations to try to resolve one of Africa’s longest-running territorial disputes, which saw the Polisario Front wage a bitter 16-year insurgency against Moroccan control.


Senate challenges House on Western Sahara dispute

A handful of senators are standing up to their House colleagues who want the United States to side with Morocco over the disputed Western Sahara.

The Senate spending panel that oversees US foreign aid has included language in its annual appropriations bill that would require the Donald Trump administration to consult with the United Nations before providing aid to Western Sahara, a contested region administered by Morocco. The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, the Algerian-backed government in exile that is pushing for a long-delayed independence referendum, welcomed the Senate’s move.

“Since Morocco does not have any legitimacy in the territory, it makes sense that Congress should consult with the United Nations,” Mouloud Said, the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic’s envoy to the United States, told Al-Monitor. “We are very happy for the language that was adopted by the Senate. This is the logical approach while the country still is not recognized.”



Local Election Corruption Claim

A veteran journalist in Swaziland has slammed the organisation of the upcoming municipal elections in the kingdom, suggesting voting will be rigged.

Ackel Zwane, writing his weekly column for the Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III the absolute monarch in Swaziland, pointed to ‘rampant corruption’.

Zwane wrote on Friday (13 October 2017), the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) which runs the election had disregarded the Swazi Constitution that requires it to set up appropriate rules and monitor elections in Swaziland.

‘Since their commissioning the EBC has done nothing but recite certain clauses about the voting process instead of creating institutions that will protect citizens from all forms of rigging and make elections truly meaningful and not just a scramble for unearned positions of power.’


New SA-Swaziland railway line on its way

Plans are well underway for the multimillion-rand Swaziland Railway project, which will link Lothair in Mpumalanga to Sidvokodvo in Swaziland, Transnet says.

The feasibility study report had received a green light from both countries companies and they could now proceed to the next phase of the project.

The search for suitable partners had already begun.

Transnet said the project’s primary objective was to reduce rail- and road-traffic congestion based on a realistic and achievable system capacity, but it would serve also as a back-up to the coal line.




Africa in General

DRC, CAR crises under debate at ‘Great Lakes’ summit

The crises in Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Burundi and South Sudan are expected to come under the microscope at a 12-nation summit in Brazzaville on on Thursday, officials say.

The summit will gather heads of state or government from Angola, Burundi, CAR, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

Security officials, military chiefs and foreign ministers held ground-clearing meetings on Sunday and Monday in the Republic of Congo’s capital.


Agreement reached on DRC roadmap – Zuma

SADC chair and South African President Jacob Zuma says an agreement has been reached regarding the roadmap that will lead to the elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

However, no details were made available including a date the elections will be held. President Zuma met the DRC’s President Joseph Kabila in Kinshasa who updated him about the electoral process.

The 37th SADC summit called on the DRC to come up with a clear programme regarding the country’s elections.

This, following accusations that it had not gone far enough to ensure that elections were held speedily.

The Southern Times

Somali president vows war on Shabaab after devastating bomb

Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed vowed on Wednesday to step up the war against al-Shabaab, as he addressed thousands at a rally in Mogadishu for the victims of the city’s worst-ever bombing.

Protesters wearing red bands around their heads marched through the scene of the truck bombing, a once bustling district, before gathering at a stadium where they chanted: “We are ready to fight”.

Residents of the Somali capital, while wearily accustomed to regular bombs and attacks by the Islamist militants, have been outraged by the strike on Saturday which left at least 276 dead and 300 wounded.