News Briefs: 21 April 2017

Democratic Republic of Congo

DRC returns militia leader’s body; new chief named

Democratic Republic of Congo’s government says it has returned the body of a militia leader, whose death in August sparked months of fighting with the military that has left more than 400 people dead in the country’s Kasai Central province.

The interior ministry said in a statement that the Kamwina Nsapu militia, named after its late chief, has appointed Jacques Kabeya Ntumba as its new leader.

Nsapu’s family has been asking for the late leader’s body since last year.


UN may ask ICC to probe DRC mass graves

UN investigators have confirmed the discovery of another 17 mass graves in central DRC, prompting the world body’s top human rights official to raise the prospect of action by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The announcement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein of the discovery of a further 17 mass graves in Kasai Central province in the Democratic Republic of Congo brings the number of such sites recorded by UN investigators to 40.

Fifteen of the newly uncovered graves were in a cemetery in the town of Tshimbulu, while two others were located in the village of Tshienke, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OCHR).



General – U.S. Not at War in Somalia

The head of the United States Africa Command (Africom) has indicated that Pentagon will not step up the US combat role in Somalia.

Marine Corps General Thomas Waldhauser told reporters in a conference call that the dozens of additional American soldiers being sent to Somalia are “logisticians” rather than infantry troops.

This “long-scheduled deployment” is primarily intended to help to train Somali forces to become more effective in fighting Al-Shabaab, said Gen Waldhauser. He also disputed media reports that the [Donald] Trump administration has “loosened rules for authority to strike” Al-Shabaab targets.

Al-Shabab militants try food to win hearts and minds in Somalia

The al-Qaida-affiliated militant group al-Shabab is trying to improve its reputation by delivering food to parts of Somalia that are suffering from drought.


Al-Shabab blocked food aid and killed some humanitarian workers during the last major famine in 2011, severely damaging its image. So this time, the group is taking a softer approach, claiming to have distributed food in the six central and southern regions of Bay, Bakol, Mudug, Hiraan, Lower Shabelle and Galguduug.

“This is a resilient group. They do learn their lessons,” said J. Peter Pham, vice president for Research and Regional Initiatives and director of the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council. The militants learned that part of their military defeat was due to the improved training of peacekeepers, but also their own handling of the 2011 famine, he said.


Central African Republic

In the Central African Republic, the World Bank is Financing the Reintegration of 5,000 Ex-combatants While Supporting the Host Communities

The World Bank’s Board of Directors approved a $30 million grant to the Government of the Central African Republic (CAR) to support the social and economic reintegration of 5,000 ex-combatants as the country recovers from years of conflicts.

This project will cover demobilized ex-combatants and their host communities. Support measures such as orientation, advisory services, vocational training, and assistance with business start-up, will be in place to help former combatants reintegrate into communities. The host communities will benefit from increased access to basic social services and new economic opportunities.

“The World Bank believes that the Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDRR) Program is a priority for stabilizing the country and strengthening social cohesion,” says Jean-Christophe Carret, World Bank Country Manager in the CAR. “It is nevertheless important to not only assist with the reintegration of former combatants but also to provide resources to their host communities by creating new economic opportunities.”

Relief Web

MSF: Central African Republic Violence Worst In Years

Violence against civilians in Central African Republic (CAR), including summary executions and mutilations, is reaching levels not seen since the height of its years-long conflict, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has said.

The country descended into chaos when a mainly Muslim Seleka rebel alliance ousted then-president Francois Bozize in 2013, sparking reprisals from Christian militias. Religion has played a waning role as splinter groups now clash over control of territory and resources.

Recent violence has been concentrated in four prefectures in the center and east, where the government and a 13,000-strong United Nations peacekeeping mission have struggled to contain the bloodshed, the medical charity said.






Sudan likens South Sudanese influx to ’emergency’

Sudan is facing an “emergency-like situation” with nearly 1,500 South Sudanese crossing into the country each day to flee famine and war, a top Sudanese official said Thursday.

South Sudan, formed after splitting from the north in 2011, has declared a famine in parts of the country where 100,000 people are said to be facing starvation.

Each day, 1,500 South Sudanese — mostly women and children — are crossing into Sudan, mainly in states like East Darfur, South Darfur and White Nile, Khartoum’s commissioner for refugees Hamad Elgizouli told reporters.

“We are in an emergency-like situation… and until now we have not received any donations except to meet some existential needs,” he said.


Egypt, Sudan vow not to aid opposition groups

Egypt and Sudan said on Thursday they will not harbour or support opposition groups fighting their respective governments, as top diplomats of the two countries vowed to boost bilateral ties.

Relations between neighbours Cairo and Khartoum have been tense, with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir accusing Egyptian intelligence services of supporting Sudanese opposition figures fighting his troops.

The Egyptian media has also accused Khartoum of offering refuge to members of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, which was declared a “terrorist group” by Cairo following the ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in 2013.


South Sudan

South Sudan conflict could cost billions if fighting continues

South Sudan’s ongoing civil war is not only expensive in terms of human lives and suffering, but economically as well, with the People’s Democratic Movement (PDM) reporting that if the fighting continued for another four years unabated it could cost the world’s newest country $28-billion (R368-billion).

PDM is an abroad-based observatory grassroots movement that was formed by concerned South Sudanese in the country and the diaspora in response to the political crisis and fast deteriorating economic, humanitarian and security situation in the country, amid heightened ethnic polarisation and the devastating conflict, the Sudan Tribune reported on Thursday.

In a policy brief, the PDM estimated that the cost of the ongoing conflict and intransigence lay between $22.3 billion and $28 billion if the conflict continued for another one to four years.




South Sudan war strains Uganda’s generous refugee policy

Ugandan motorbike taxi driver Sadiq Agotre grumbles as he waits for a rare client among thousands of South Sudanese refugees hoping to receive food rations in the outskirts of his town.

“Business is not good. These people don’t have money,” he says, gazing out over a vast area that in only eight months has transformed from scrubland and trees to the world’s biggest refugee settlement, Bidibidi, which houses more than 270 000 people.

Uganda has been praised for its warm welcome of refugees, but as civil war in neighbouring South Sudan continues to push more than 2 000 people a day into the country, local communities and aid agencies are buckling under the strain.


Western Sahara

UN peacekeeping force in Western Sahara must urgently monitor human rights

The UN must prioritize human rights monitoring for the situation in Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara and Sahrawi refugee camps across the border in Tindouf, Algeria, Amnesty International urged ahead of a Security Council vote next week on 27 April to renew the mandate of its peacekeeping presence in the area.

The UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) does not currently have a mandate to document or report on the human rights situation despite the fact that abuses continue to be committed by both the Moroccan authorities and the Polisario Front, a Sahrawi pro-independence movement, which administers Sahrawi refugee camps near Tindouf, southern Algeria.

“Enabling the UN peacekeeping mission to monitor human rights in Western Sahara and the Tindouf refugee camps is crucial for ensuring that abuses committed far from the public eye are brought to the world’s attention, holding those responsible to account, and improving respect for human rights,” said Heba Morayef, research director for Amnesty International in North Africa.

Amnesty International

UN Report: Will Guterres Adopt a New Approach on Western Sahara

The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, released the UN’s annual report on the situation in the Western Sahara on Monday. Like every year, Moroccans had anxiously awaited the report, eager to see if it would contain recommendations in line with Morocco’s interests.

This sense of anxious expectation prompted many Moroccans, both specialists and casual observers, to make hasty conclusions that for the most part were based neither on a careful reading of the report nor a comparison with previous reports. This hastiness led to inaccuracies that cast a sort of blurriness on public discussions and made the task of understanding, analyzing, and drawing conclusions from the report all the more difficult.

Morocco World News





Swaziland govt denies claims that King Mswati has banned divorce

The government of Swaziland has refuted claims that King Mswati III has banned divorce in the Kingdom. This follows widespread reports that the King announced at an Easter weekend prayer service that divorce has been banned in his country. This comes when Swaziland is preparing for the King’s 48th birthday celebrations next Monday.

King Mswati III has been in the media spotlight in the past few days.This comes after reports that he has banned divorce in Swaziland.  It is an assertion that the Swazi government disputes.

Government authorities say the King was merely making a call for the nation to engage in conversation instead of resorting to divorce.


Israel thanks Swaziland for not breaking relations

Israel Ambassador to Swaziland Arthur Lenk thanked government for not breaking relations with his country.

Lenk was addressing University of Swaziland (UNISWA) students, lecturers and professors on issues of international relations.

During the discussions which were also attended by UNISWA top officials including the Vice Chancellor Cisco Magagula, Swaziland National Union of Students (SNUS) President Brian Sangweni raised his concern on the issue of human rights in Israel.

Sangweni said reports have revealed that people were displaced and students losing the opportunity to further their studies because of the war which is going on between the Palestinians and Israelites which has even resulted in other countries cutting ties with Israel.

Swazi observer


Cash Crisis Bites as Zimbabwe Marks 37 Years of Independence

Zimbabweans mark 37 years of independence on Tuesday but not everyone is excited.

So tight is the cash situation that officials have suggested parents be allowed to pay their children’s school fees in goats.

President Robert Mugabe has told schoolchildren that they needed to celebrate Zimbabwe’s achievements in education.

He was addressing an annual, pre-independence children’s party that he and his wife Grace are always guests of honour at.


Firms in Zimbabwe innovate to survive

Companies in Zimbabwe are now investing in new lines that can produce smaller packages for manufactured products as cash continues to dry up, with executives from foodstuffs manufacturer Nestlé saying conditions in the economy have necessitated this.

Zimbabwe continues to be affected by low productivity, with manufacturing capacity still below 50 percent according to a survey by the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries. Although the country has instituted restrictions on imports from countries such as South Africa, Zambia and Mozambique, some foreign goods are still finding their way on markets in the country.

Most of the finished goods still being imported into Zimbabwe include beverages, sugar, rice, chicken and cooking oil among others. This has been bleeding local manufacturers, according to Kipson Gundani, an economist at the Buy Zimbabwe pressure and lobby group.




Africa in General

Angola steps up security patrols along DRC border

Angola said on Wednesday that it was reinforcing security patrols along its northern border through which thousands of refugees have fled violence in the Kasai region of the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

“The Angolan police has intensified patrols on the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo to prevent the infiltration of armed groups into our national territory,” police chief Ambrosio de Lemos said on public RNA radio.

The DRC’s four central provinces of Kasai, Kasai-Central, Kasai-Oriental and Lomami have been gripped by a violent uprising since last year.


Gambia president’s party takes majority in parliament

The party of Gambia’s new president won a majority of seats in parliament after two decades of domination by the party of former leader Yahya Jammeh, the Independent Electoral Commission announced on Friday.

President Adama Barrow’s United Democratic Party won 31 seats in the 53-seat National Assembly. The results mean Barrow can move ahead with promised transitions toward greater freedoms.

Barrow, who beat Jammeh in December elections, has promised a path toward reconciliation in this tiny West African country. Jammeh’s government was long accused of rights abuses.