News Briefs 21 June 2019

Africa in General

Hundreds of protesters demand civilian rule in Sudan

Hundreds of Sudanese demonstrated in state capitals on Thursday, putting pressure on the ruling military council to cede power to civilians in ongoing tumult since the overthrow of former President Omar al-Bashir more than two months ago.

There were gatherings in each of the state capitals of Wad Madani, Al-Ubayyid and Port Sudan to call for the Transitional Military Council to relinquish power.

Dozens also demonstrated in the national capital Khartoum, including employees from the private Bank of Khartoum, chanting “Civilian!” and waving Sudanese flags.


Zimbabwe firms demand payment in US dollars after inflation reaches new high

Zimbabwe’s interim currency fell to a new low on the black market on Thursday and local firms were demanding payment in U.S. dollars as a hedge against inflation, which is running at its highest in a decade.

The RTGS dollar has plunged 60% against the US dollar since its introduction in February, and public sector workers’ demands for a second pay rise this year could undermine a government drive to convince lenders of its fiscal discipline.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa won a disputed election last year on a promise to revive a Zimbabwe economy shattered by decades of mismanagement by his ousted predecessor Robert Mugabe.


ICC prosecutor: Omar al-Bashir must answer for Darfur abuses now

Sudan’s Transitional Military Council (TMC) should hand over overthrown President Omar al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to face justice for masterminding atrocities in the western Darfur region, the court’s prosecutor has said.

Al-Bashir, who lost power in a military coup in April and was immediately arrested by the transitional authorities, is wanted by the ICC on charges, which he denies, of crimes against humanity and genocide relating to abuses by Sudanese forces in Darfur between 2003 and 2008. The Hague-based tribunal issued warrants for his arrest in 2009 and 2010.

Speaking in New York, ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said that “circumstances have changed dramatically” in the wake of the coup and now the victims of historic abuses in Darfur had a shot at getting justice.


Democratic Republic of Congo

DR Congo’s army moves in to dislodge illegal miners

Democratic Republic of Congo’s army has sent a battalion of troops to oust illegal miners from land worked by a majority-owned Chinese company, the military said on Tuesday.

One of the largest cobalt and copper producers in the DRC, Tenke Fungurume Mining (TFM) has frequently protested at incursions into its holdings by subsistence miners.

It says “more than 10,000” illegal miners are at work on its concessions in Lualaba province, in the far south of the sprawling country.

“Since yesterday (Monday), a battalion has been deployed on a dissuasive mission against artisanal miners to get them to leave TFM’s mining concessions voluntarily,” army spokesman Colonel Emmanuel Kabamba told AFP.


300,000 flee flare-up of ethnic violence in north-eastern DR Congo

Citing multiple attacks and counter-attacks between Hema herders and Lendu farmers, UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch told journalists in Geneva that the situation had worsened in recent days.

The development comes amid reports of intense fighting between the Congolese armed forces (FARDC) and non-state armed actors in Djugu territory, as the authorities attempt to bring the situation under control in the vast, resource-rich region.

“People are fleeing attacks and counter attacks in Djugu Territory, with reports of both communities forming self-defence groups and being involved in revenge killings”, Mr. Baloch said.

“The details we are receiving from our partners, and also some of the displaced”, he said, included reports of “brutalities against civilians, killings, sexual violence, and other extreme forms of violence against civilians”, noting that UNHCR’s warning is based on information received from sources in 125 locations.

UN News


US Reopens Permanent USAID Mission in Somalia

The United States is reopening its permanent U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission in Somalia, 28 years since its closing on January 5, 1991.

Although the U.S. never formally severed diplomatic relations with Somalia, the U.S. Embassy in Somalia was closed in 1991, when the civil war in the 1980s led to the collapse of the country’s central government in 1991.

On Monday, USAID also announced nearly $185 million in humanitarian assistance for the people of Somalia.  The aid is aimed at mitigating life-threatening food insecurity and acute malnutrition, as well as delivering safe water and emergency health care services to people affected by the ongoing conflict and prolonged drought.

Voice of America

11 Killed, 25 Injured as Explosions Rock Somalia’s Capital

A pair of explosions rocked Somalia’s capital and left 11 people dead, the country’s police chief said Saturday, as the al-Qaida-linked extremist group al-Shabab claimed responsibility.

Another 25 people were wounded, Gen. Bashir Abdi Mohamed told reporters in Mogadishu. He said the first car bomb went off near a security checkpoint for the presidential palace and was responsible for nine deaths.

The second car bomb killed the driver and his accomplice near a checkpoint on the road to the heavily fortified airport, he said.

Al-Shabab, which often targets the capital, said the blasts were meant to strike the first line of security checkpoints for the airport and palace. The airport is home to a number of diplomatic offices. The palace is a frequent al-Shabab target.


Violence rife in Central African Republic despite peace deal

Despite a joint collaboration with armed group 3R, the security situation remains fragile, with between 50 and 70 violations of the peace accord reported every week.

Civilians in the Central African Republic (CAR) are continuing to suffer daily violence despite the peace deal signed in February.

One of the more deadly incidents involved the killing of 39 people in the Ouham-Pende region on May 21 by members of the 3R armed group – one of the signatories to the peace accord.

Mankeur Ndiaye, head of the UN Mission to the country known by the French acronym MINUSCA, told the UN Security Council (UNSC) in New York on Thursday that the “cowardly killing” had also led to the displacement of 12,000 people from their homes.

Following a joint mission of the UN, African Union and Economic Community of Central African States, the leader of the 3R group committed to collaborate with the investigations into the killings.

The Citizen

Two AFP journalists beaten, detained in Central African Republic

Security forces in Central African Republic beat and detained two journalists working for French news wire Agence France-Presse (AFP) covering a banned opposition protest in the capital Bangui, the reporters said Sunday.

Charles Bouessel, 28, and Florent Vergnes, 30, said they were held for more than six hours and questioned three times on Saturday after having been brutally manhandled by members of the Central Office for the Suppression of Banditry (OCRB).

The pair also had their equipment confiscated and a camera smashed up.

“The protest was going well, the (police) let us film and clearly saw that we were not part of the rally,” Bouessel said Sunday.



Sudan prosecutor general sacked as new protests held

Sudan’s Transitional Military Council (TMC) has sacked the country’s prosecutor general, days after charges of corruption were brought against overthrown President Omar al-Bashir as new protests got under way.

The official SUNA news agency reported on Thursday that Abdullah Ahmed would replace Alwaleed Sayed Ahmed as prosecutor general, but did not give any reason for the sacking.

Abdullah had recently been appointed prosecutor for Khartoum, a role in which he was overseeing an investigation into the June 3 bloody raid on a protest camp in the capital that killed scores of pro-democracy demonstrators.


‘Military council came to power without a plan’, Sudan opposition leader tells FRANCE 24

In an interview with FRANCE 24 on Thursday, Sudan’s veteran opposition leader Sadiq al-Mahdi called for an independent probe into the deadly June 3 crackdown on protesters and a “non-partisan government of experts” to steer the country out of crisis.

Sudan’s ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC) has rejected calls for an international investigation after thousands of protesters who had camped outside the army headquarters in central Khartoum for weeks were dispersed in a brutal clampdown that left dozens dead.

The crackdown followed the collapse of talks between protest leaders and generals, weeks after the ouster of long-time president Omar al-Bashir.

“The military council has already made several contradictory declarations and therefore we all need to have an investigation that will be trusted by all because the death toll and the bloodbath that took place will not be accepted without an investigation that is trustworthy,” Mahdi said.


South Sudan

Thousands of People Trapped in poor Conditions at Protection of Civilian sites

Conflict in South Sudan has driven a massive displacement crisis—with more than two million people forced to seek safety across borders and another two million uprooted within the country. During some of the most intense periods of the conflict, which began in late 2013, thousands of people fled to existing United Nations (UN) bases for protection. As the conflict ground on, these bases transitioned into Protection of Civilians (PoC) sites guarded by forces from the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).

Since the signing of an agreement between warring parties in September 2018, there have been discussions about the possible return of displaced people and the future of the PoC sites. Currently around 180,000 people are seeking safety in six of these camps in South Sudan. Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is present in two of these camps, in Bentiu and Malakal.  Despite the challenging conditions within the PoC sites, for many people the alternative of living outside is worse.

“When my village was attacked, many people were separated, and children even ran with different families wherever they were. Everyone was scattered or killed,” says Teresa, a mother of three from Mayendit now living in Bentiu camp. “When we got here, we were only hearing things like, ‘This one was killed, this one is here, or this one is looking for you.’ ”


Lawmakers in South Sudan quit budget presentation over unpaid salaries

South Sudanese lawmakers stormed out of a budget presentation for the 2019/20 financial year by the finance minister on Thursday, with one citing frustrations over non-payment of salaries of civil servants and soldiers.

The disruption highlights South Sudan’s fragile government months after the latest peace deal was signed to end a civil war, often fought along ethnic lines and that has crippled oil production, forced millions to flee and killed 400,000 people.

“Our army is cutting down trees to make a living, our foreign missions … it is now almost one year we are unable to pay them. Our teachers are not being paid. What are we doing? We are now presenting a new budget while our salaries are not being paid,” one lawmaker shouted.

Parliament Speaker Anthony Lino adjourned the parliament sitting.


Western Sahara

Morocco backed by its allies in a UN Special Committee on decolonization meeting

The Western Sahara issue was at the heart of a substantive session of the Special Committee on Decolonization, Information, Visiting Missions held, Monday, in New York. During the meeting, attended by Morocco’s representative to the United Nations, several delegations voiced their positions on the territorial dispute.

Speaking before the Committee of 24 of the United Nations, a representative from Algeria, a country that houses and supports the Polisario Front, defended the stand of the separatist movement.

The inalienable right of the Territory’s people to self-determination has been established and codified by numerous General Assembly resolutions, as well as the decision of the European Court of Justice in 2015, 2016 and 2018», the UN wrote in a press release, quoting Algeria’s representative.


Establishment of Japan’s Association of Support to Saharawi People

Tokyo hosted the establishment of the “Friends of Western Sahara in Japan” association to promote activities to raise awareness of the Sahrawi struggle for self-determination and independence.

The association “Friends of Western Sahara in Japan”, composed of professors, journalists and members of non-governmental organizations, has among its objectives to denounce the serious situation of human rights in the occupied areas of Western Sahara, to denounce the illegal exploitation of Saharawi natural resources and organize political activities to involve the government of Japan in the efforts aimed at a just and definitive solution.

Keiko Shingo, a member of the association, said in statements to SPS that “for the association will appeal the government of Japan to act on its foreign policy to end the suffering of the Saharawi people.”



Swaziland Public Service Unions Call National Strike to March on Government

Public service unions across Swaziland / eSwatini plan a nationwide strike against government.

They intend to march and deliver petitions to a number of government ministries. It is due to take place on Wednesday (26 June 2019).

Four public service unions have joined forces, they are the National Public Service and Allied Workers Union (NAPSAWU), Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT), Swaziland Democratic Nurses Union (SWADNU) and the Swaziland Government Accountants Personnel (SNAGAP).

The strike had been delayed by the kingdom’s Industrial Court.

One of the matters the union wants sorted is the shortage of medicines at public hospitals and clinics. The government, which is not elected but handpicked by absolute monarch King Mswati III, is broke and has not paid suppliers.



Zimbabwe’s inflation figures skyrocket

Inflation figures from the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZimStat) have left officials alarmed as the country’s year-on-year inflation reached 97.85 percent in May, the highest in a decade.

In what reveals the rapid deterioration of the southern African nation’s economy, the data reflects a steep jump of 22 percent from the previous month’s 75.86 percent. On a monthly basis, prices rose by 12.54 percent in May compared to 5.52 percent in April.

The latest figures are the highest since the introduction of multi-currency use in 2009, on the back of the hyperinflation period and the 2008 global financial crisis. The financial crisis saw Zimbabwe’s peak month of inflation surge to around 79.6 billion percent month-on-month and 89.7 sextillion percent year-on-year.

The data from ZimStat were arrived at with a new inflation calculation method known as the Consumer Price Index (CPI), under which the Classification of Individual Consumption by Purpose (COICOP) calculation methodology is used. The new approach classifies individual consumption expenditures incurred by households, non-profit institutions serving households and general government according to their purpose.

Mahere joins MDC as Chamisa keeps leadership rivals in the fold

Nelson Chamisa brought his leadership rivals back into the fold on Wednesday as he announced additional names to an MDC leadership team voted at a congress last month.

Douglas Mwonzora and Elias Mudzuri, who both had an intention to challenge Chamisa but failed to secure the backing of party members, were returned to the party’s national executive committee as deputy secretary for international relations and secretary for local government respectively.

Morgen Komichi, defeated in the race for vice president, was appointed secretary for presidential affairs.

Daniel Molokele, who ran for secretary general, is the new MDC spokesman, taking over from Jacob Mafume who has been re-assigned as secretary for elections. Luke Tamborinyoka will deputise Molokele.