News Briefs 21 August 2020


Covid-19: eSwatini community broadcasters blocked from going on air in great time of need

EmaSwati long for the kind of community radio they see operating in neighbouring South Africa and Mozambique, which takes on local issues.

However, the state broadcaster, the eSwatini Broadcasting and Information Service (EBIS), has a 56-year-old virtual monopoly which it inherited from the colonial era and which the government and royal family appear reluctant to see diluted.

A very small number of independent stations have been licensed, either subject to stringent conditions, or owned by politically connected individuals or organisations seen as politically “safe“, such as churches.

Citing the Covid-19 lockdown, the Broadcasting Guidelines of 2017 and the lack of a Broadcasting Act, the commission recently turned down three applications for “temporal” community broadcasting licences.

Daily Maverick 19 August 2020

Eswatini Unveils Stimulus Plan for Virus-Hit Economy

Eswatini will roll out an ambitious post-coronavirus economic recovery plan, the government said Thursday, as it hit back at claims that King Mswati III was draining state coffers to fund a luxury lifestyle.

The $1.7-billion (1.44-billion-euro), 18-month scheme aims to revive the long-ailing economy of Africa’s last absolute monarchy with the help of the private sector.

“Eswatini is open for business,” Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini of the small southern African country of 1.2 million, formerly known as Swaziland, told AFP.

“We are giving assurances to potential investors that if they bring their money into the country, the kingdom of eSwatini is a stable country politically,” he said in an online interview.

The economy is projected to shrink 6.7% this year, battered by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus has so far caused 4,058 infections including 79 deaths, according to an official tally.

EWN 20 August 2020


Chin’ono Says Starving as Bail Bid Turns Frustrating

Journalist Hopewell Chin’ono Wednesday told media colleagues he was being starved by prison officials.

The whistle-blowing scribe has been languishing in remand prison for exactly a month facing charges of inciting a citizen revolt against President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s under-fire administration.

He denies the charges.

Lawyers have told court during seemingly unyielding bail hearings past few weeks the journalist was now surviving on biscuit and water as prison wardens blocked relatives from bringing him warm food from outside.

Court has ordered authorities to grant him access to food and his lawyers.

But while being escorted to the prison truck back to remand prison Wednesday, the journalist, who looked stressed, confirmed his frustrations with his keepers for starving him.

“Well I’m okay but hungry. The prison is not complying with a court order which allows me to eat. No food is being brought to me,” he said.

AllAfrica 20 August 2020

Govt Escalates Row with Catholics, Summons Envoy to Explain Mnangagwa ‘Insult’

Government has moved to escalate its widely publicised row with Catholic priests through a planned meeting with the Vatican Representative to Zimbabwe ostensibly to seek explanation over ‘insults’ directed at President Emmerson Mnangagwa by the church’s local clerics.

The clerics, under the auspices of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference, last week penned a damning condemnation of the Zanu PF led administration saying the country had a multi-layered crisis, including economic collapse, deepening poverty, corruption and human rights abuses.

A panicky government, through Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa, dug in and issued a vitriolic response to the priests, describing them as evil minded.

But that could only ignite more fires around the cornered administration amid overwhelming support for the clerics coupled with widespread condemnation for government.

AllAfrica 20 August 2020

Democratic Republic of Congo

WHO rings alarm as Ebola cases near 100

The Ebola virus has so far affected some 92 people in Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) Equateur province, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Thursday.

In a recent update on the 11th Ebola outbreak in Mbandaka, Equateu, WHO Africa announced that 96 cases, 92 confirmed and four probable, were recorded as of Aug. 19, with 42 deaths and 37 recoveries.

In its Health Emergencies Bulletin earlier this week, WHO Africa said Ebola in the country’s Equateur province continues to be of grave concern, given its continuing rise and geographical spread.

The outbreak is further complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic, a long-standing measles outbreak, and a complex humanitarian crisis in the country.

Starting in North Kivu in August 2018, the epidemic was the second-largest outbreak in the world, and particularly challenging as it took place in an active conflict zone. There were 3,470 cases, 2,287 deaths, and 1,171 survivors, according to the WHO.

Anadolu Agency 20 August 2020

Faction of DR Congo rebel group surrenders after internal revolt

Almost 500 fighters from a faction of one the largest armed groups in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo have surrendered to the government just over a month after they attempted to overthrow the group’s leader.

Soldiers from the NDC-R, a rebel group seen as having close ties with the national army, sang and danced before handing over an assortment of small arms at a ceremony on Monday in the village of Kashuga, about 75km (46 miles) north of Goma.

Fighting has raged between two factions of the NDC-R since July 9 when a group loyal to deputy leader Gilbert Bwira Shuo attempted to overthrow leader Shimiray Guidon, who is the target of UN sanctions, accusing him of human-rights abuses.

Aljazeera 19 August 2020


Somalia at a critical juncture, as federal, state leaders, meet to break election impasse

With elections slated for November delayed due to COVID-19, Somalia is at a critical juncture, the top United Nations official in the country told the Security Council on Thursday, pressing federal and state leaders to agree on voting modalities, and bolster the capacity of forces which are meant to assume full control of national security, next year.

“We understand that there are strongly held divergent views among the leaders and political tensions are high in this pre-electoral period”, said James Swan, Special Representative and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM).  “Yet, it is precisely during such moments that it is most necessary for the nation’s leaders to engage in dialogue.”

He described the current dilemma to ambassadors, whereby Parliament must be elected through universal direct suffrage, according to the Provisional Federal Constitution.

UN News 20 August 2020

Somalia bill may approve marriage for girls as young as 10

Hafsa was married off at 13 by her father to a man who paid $100. She and her mother say she was beaten and raped for two years before they convinced him to divorce her.

“The man just slept with me, beating me always,” she said, sitting by her mother, who clutches her daughter tightly. “I regretted I was born.”

There is no law mandating a minimum age for marriage in Somalia. A bill introduced in parliament this month by a presidential ally caused a storm of criticism from lawmakers when they realised it would legalise marriage at puberty — as early as 10 for some girls.

Data from a government survey this year shows that nearly a third of girls are married before their 18th birthday — just less than half of those before the age of 15.

Business Day 20 August 2020


UN Makes $1.6 Billion Appeal for Sudan

United Nations officials in Sudan have sent out an urgent appeal for $1.6 billion to provide life-saving assistance to citizens, including hundreds of thousands of people affected by floods.  Recent flooding caused by heavy rain has affected 17 of Sudan’s 18 states.

More than 20,000 houses were destroyed and another 20,000 were damaged by the floods, according to Saviano Abreu, spokesperson for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Khartoum.

“Here in Sudan we have around 250,000 people affected by floods that started in mid-July but intensified by the end of the month. During the month of August is when we saw most of the rain, concentrated in a short period of time,” Abreu told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus.

Voice of America 19 august 2020

Sudanese protest a year after power-sharing deal with army

Protesters in Sudan have returned to the streets over the slow pace of change a year after a power-sharing agreement was signed between the country’s generals and a pro-democracy movement.

Draped in Sudanese flags and chanting slogans calling for more reforms, the demonstrators on Monday gathered outside the cabinet’s headquarters in the capital, Khartoum, to hand over a list of demands that include the election of a legislative body.

The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), an umbrella organisation of pro-democracy groups that spearheaded relentless protests that led to the overthrow of longtime President Omar al-Bashir last year, said on Twitter that security forces violently dispersed protesters after they demanded to meet Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok and refused to negotiate with an envoy sent in his place.

Aljazeera 17 August 2020

South Sudan

Running on empty: South Sudan is out of foreign exchange

South Sudan, battered by years of conflict and corruption, has run out of foreign exchange reserves and cannot stop the pound’s depreciation, a senior central bank official in the oil-producing nation said on Wednesday.

South Sudan gets almost all of its revenue from crude oil, but current output, at about 180,000 barrels per day (bpd), has plummeted from a peak of 250,000 bpd before the outbreak of conflict in 2013, according to official figures.

“It is difficult for us at the moment to stop this rapidly increasing exchange rate, because we do not have resources, we do not have reserves,” Daniel Kech Pouch, the bank’s second deputy governor, told a news conference.

South Sudan has three exchange rates – one from the central bank, from commercial banks, and from the unofficial market. Pouch said the rate for the pound from the central bank is 165 a dollar, from commercial banks about 190, and 400 from the parallel market.

Aljazeera 20 August 2020

South Sudan – renewed clashes and a forgotten crisis

Over the course of just one week, between 29 July to the beginning of August, the MSF medical team in Pieri received an influx of 102 war-wounded patients, the youngest just 15-years-old. A further 11 patients were treated for gunshot wounds at the outpatient emergency response in Pibor relaunched on 11 August. Of the 11, six patients, including two women, two men and two children one aged only 3-years-old, were evacuated for specialised treatment. A further 36 patients from Pieri were referred for emergency surgery to the MSF hospital in the Bentiu Protection of Civilians (PoC) site and to Juba.

The numbers of patients were staggering, putting significant pressure on our medical teams. Our hospital in Bentiu, where the most serious patients were being referred, was already stretched for bed capacity due to a peak in malaria cases. However, there are an extremely limited number of facilities within the country that have the capacity to deal with such numbers of injured and critical surgical interventions. – Tila Muhammad, MSF Head of Mission in South Sudan.

“This conflict has continued since last year. It came up again in February and then in June. It is not the first time we have had such inter-communal clashes and insistent violence. In the past it was about cattle raiding…It is now more seriously affecting our community. We are seeing the loss of property, the loss of life. We lose our cattle. We lose our children,” says Sebit Burane, MSF nursing team supervisor in Pibor.

Relief Web 20 August 2020

Western Sahara

French activist cycles to Geneva in solidarity with Western Sahara

French activist and PHD student, Meriem Naili, has today started a bike ride from France to Geneva in Switzerland, in solidarity with the Saharawi people and in favour of the decolonization of this last colony in Africa.

The young woman also launched an online petition (check petition here) stressing that the UN must include human rights monitoring to its Mission’s mandate in Western Sahara, planing to hand copies of it in the end to representatives of the UN agencies and the Red Cross in Geneva.

“Western Sahara must stop being the UN’s human rights blind spot; human rights should be monitored, protected and promoted!” the petition reads, calling on the “UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and relevant Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council carry out a visit to the territory and the refugee camps in order to assess the current situation.”

The young activist further urges “ICRC to visit Sahrawi political prisoners held in Moroccan prisons for the sole reason that they were peacefully protesting to defend their inalienable right to self-determination.”

Sahara Press Service 17 August 2020

Covid-19: Humanitarian aid for Saharawi people

A military aircraft, loaded with humanitarian aid for the Sahrawi people, took off Saturday from the Boufarik airbase to the deployment airbase in Tindouf, indicated the Algerian Ministry of National Defence in a statement.

“As part of the ongoing of solidarity actions between Algeria and brotherly and friendly countries, particularly in the shadow of the current health situation, namely the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), and in execution of the instructions of the President of the Republic, Supreme Chief of the Armed Forces, Minister of National Defense, a military aircraft, loaded with a cargo of humanitarian aid to the Sahrawi people, took off Saturday morning, August 8, 2020, from the air base of Boufarik to the air base of deployment in Tindouf,” the same source said.

Sahara Press Service 09 August 2020