News Briefs 21 June 2021

Southern Africa Focus

Zimbabwe

IMF doubles forecast for economic growth in Zimbabwe on harvest

The International Monetary Fund almost doubled its economic growth forecast for Zimbabwe, citing a bumper harvest, improved power supply and an increase in manufacturing and construction.

The IMF expects the economy to expand “by about 6%” this year, it said late Wednesday at the end of a two-week virtual staff visit. “An economic recovery is underway in 2021,” it said in an emailed statement.

The forecast compares with a prior prediction of 3.1% growth and is closer to the projection by the southern African nation’s Treasury that gross domestic product will increase 7.4% this year.

In rare praise of the authorities’ policy reforms, the IMF said attempts to contain the nation’s budget deficit, reserve money growth and the introduction of a foreign-exchange auction system signaled Zimbabwe is moving in the right direction.

Money Web 17 June 2021

Jailed Zimbabwean New York Times reporter granted bail

A Zimbabwean freelance reporter for the New York Times was granted bail Tuesday, three weeks after he was arrested over claims he helped two foreign colleagues enter the country fraudulently.

Jeffrey Moyo, who was detained on May 26, was accused of providing fake media accreditation cards to help South Africa-based NYT reporters Christina Goldbaum and Joao Silva into Zimbabwe for a week-long assignment.

The 37-year-old was granted release on bail of ZW$5,000 ($59).

However, he was not freed as expected due to technical glitches by court officials, his lawyers said.

News24 16 June 2021

eSwatini

Giving 110%: Eswatini’s early rollout of COVID-19 vaccines

“I didn’t think that I could get COVID out here in my village,” says Linda Simelane at her home in Sibebe in rural Eswatini.

“I stay away from people, I stay alone, but it happened that I started getting flu symptoms.”

At the peak of Africa’s first wave of infections in mid-2020, Ms Simelane’s son took her to get tested for COVID-19, but as she waited for her results at home, her condition rapidly deteriorated.

“When I woke up I just couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t walk and I had a headache. I managed to call my son who came quickly and took me to the hospital.”

“After an X-ray the health worker told me that my lungs were finished. So, they took me straight into intensive care and I was put on oxygen and a drip.”

Eswatini borders South-Africa, which accounts for nearly half of Africa’s cases of COVID-19.

Relief Web 15 June 2021

India extends $108.28 million soft loan to Eswatini

Government has extended a soft loan of $108.28 million to Eswatini (Swaziland) for construction of their new Parliament building, Exim Bank said on Tuesday.

With the signing of this line of credit agreement, Exim Bank has now in place 272 Lines of Credit (LoC), covering 62 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the CIS, with credit commitments of around $26.84 billion, available for financing exports from India, Exim Bank said in a release.

The soft loan agreement was signed between Nirmit Ved, General Manager, Exim Bank, and Neal H Rijkenberg, Finance Minister, Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini (Swaziland).

The LOCs extended to the Eswatini cover projects in sectors including information technology, disaster management, agriculture, and construction, it said.

The Times of India 15 June 2021

Democratic Republic of Congo

DR Congo Court Cuts Jail Term for Ex-Presidential Aide

A former presidential aide in DR Congo who had been sentenced to 20 years in a high-profile corruption case has had his term reduced by seven years on appeal, his lawyer said.

Vital Kamerhe, 62, who was also a former speaker of the National Assembly, was sentenced last June for embezzling nearly $50 million of public funds.

“The sentence has been reduced to 13 years,” Kamerhe’s attorney Jean-Marie Kabengela told AFP late Tuesday after a decision by an appeal court in the capital Kinshasa.

Kamerhe, who has his own political party, was a major figure in national politics before dramatically falling from grace.

He had been an early contender in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s presidential elections in December 2018.

EWN 16 June 2021

Dozens of rebels killed in DR Congo clashes, says monitor

Fighting between government forces and an armed group in eastern DR Congo erupted on Wednesday for the fifth day running, local sources said, as a respected monitor said dozens of rebels had been killed.

Members of a group called CODECO — for Cooperative for the Development of the Congo — launched an offensive against government troops on Saturday in Djugu, Ituri province.

The Kivu Security Tracker (KST), a US-headquartered NGO that monitors violence in the region, gave a death toll of 42 rebels and two troops, while four wounded soldiers had been evacuated by UN forces.

But a local source who had contacts with people on the ground said the army toll could be higher — “there were casualties on both sides.”

eNCA 16 June 2021

Central Africa and the Horn

UN chief criticizes Central African Republic forces’ actions

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres strongly criticized the Central African Republic’s security and allied forces in a new report for an “unprecedented increase in hostile threats and incidents” targeting U.N. peacekeepers and alleged human rights abuses.

His 37-page report to the U.N. Security Council obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press said people in the country continue to face an “unacceptably high level of violence.”

He called on President Faustin Archange Touadera to place peace and reconciliation at the heart of his second term “and seize the opportunity to address the root causes of the conflict.”

The mineral-rich Central African Republic has faced deadly inter-religious and inter-communal fighting since 2013.

CGTN Africa 17 June 2021

Central African Republic’s new PM makes new economic calls to France

Central African Republic’s new Prime Minister Henri-Marie Dondra said Tuesday he wanted to “revive the economy” with France as a “strategic partner”, which recently froze its budgetary aid amid an anti-French campaign.

“There are reforms that we must pursue with our French partners,” Henri-Marie Dondra, appointed on June 11, told reporters. “I am also thinking of the European Union (…) the international community and obviously our strategic partner France, and other partners will allow us to revive the economy,” Dondra added.

The French Ministry of the Armed Forces announced in early June that it had suspended its military cooperation with Bangui, deemed “complicit” in a “massive disinformation campaign” against Paris, teleguided by Russia. As early as 2018, Russia had made a remarkable entry into this former French colony by delivering weapons to the Central African armed forces and installing a large contingent of “instructors” there.

Africa News 16 June 2021

Somalia

At least 15 killed in Somalia suicide bombing claimed by militants

At least 15 people were killed on Tuesday in a suicide bombing in the Somali capital that targeted recruits who were lined up outside an army camp, a Reuters witness who counted the bodies at Madina Hospital said.

Officials at the hospital confirmed that the bodies were those killed in an attack at a checkpoint outside the General Degaban military training camp in Mogadishu.

Al Shabaab’s radio Al Andalus said the Islamist group’s fighters carried out the attack.

Al Shabaab, which wants to unseat the government and impose its strict interpretation of Islamic sharia law, frequently carries out such bombings.

Dozens of people crowded outside Madina Hospital searching for their missing relatives.

Defence Web 17 June 2021

Why Is Somalia’s Political Crisis So Difficult to Solve?

There seems to be no end in sight for the political crisis in Somalia. On February 8, the mandate of President Muhammad Abdullahi Muhammad, commonly known as Farmajo, expired without a date set for either parliamentary or presidential elections. The protests called by the opposition Council of the Presidential Candidates in the following days were met with growing repression from government forces. In April, Farmajo extended his already overdue term by a further two years, igniting violence between the security forces and anti-government militias in the streets of the capital Mogadishu.

In response, the international community, and the US in particular, increased pressure on Somali actors to come to an agreement, causing the states of Hirshabelle, Galmudug and South West to withdraw their support for Farmajo and call for new elections. Lacking international and domestic support, on May 1, Farmajo backtracked on his extended mandate and paved the way to new elections.

Fair Observer 24 May 2021

Sudan

Sudan’s prime minister warns of risk of chaos, civil war

Sudan’s prime minister warned on Tuesday of the risk of chaos and civil war fomented by loyalists of the previous regime as he sought to defend reforms meant to pull the country out of a deep economic crisis and stabilise a political transition.

Abdalla Hamdok made the comments in a televised address days after young men carrying clubs and sticks blocked roads in the capital Khartoum following the removal of fuel subsidies.

Hamdok’s government serves under a fragile military-civilian power-sharing deal struck after a popular uprising spurred the army to overthrow veteran leader Omar al-Bashir in April 2019.

The transition is meant to last until the end of 2023, leading to elections.

“The deterioration of the security situation is mainly linked to fragmentation between components of the revolution, which left a vacuum exploited by its enemies and elements of the former regime,” Hamdok said.

Defence Web 17 June 2021

Sudan says progress made in peace talks with rebel leader

Sudanese authorities adjourned talks on Tuesday with the most powerful rebel leader from the country’s south, saying they had agreed on more than three-quarters of a framework peace deal.

A deal with Abdelaziz al-Hilu’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) would be a big step in efforts to resolve decades of internal conflict in Sudan following the overthrow of former leader Omar al-Bashir in 2019.

Some rebels from the south and from the troubled western region of Darfur signed what was meant to be a comprehensive peace agreement last year.

But al-Hilu, who has control over significant forces and territory from his stronghold in South Kordofan, held out, as did the leader of the most active Darfur group, Abdel Wahed el-Nur.

Defence Web 17 June 2021

New Financing to Address Acute Food Insecurity and Desert Locust Crisis

South Sudan will benefit from two new projects totaling $116 million that aim to strengthen the capacity of farmers, improve agricultural production, and restore livelihoods and food security. South Sudan is facing increasing levels of food insecurity despite increased production, with exceptionally high food prices constraining access to food for large segments of population and desert locusts devouring crops. It is projected that 7.2 million people will face acute food insecurity in the coming months, which is the highest number since independence.

The South Sudan Resilient Agricultural Livelihoods Project (RALP) provides a grant of $62.5 million that will support investments in training for farmers to help them efficiently manage their organizations, adopt new technology, and use climate smart agriculture practices to boost their yields. It will also invest in tools, machinery, and seeds required to improve productivity.

The Emergency Locust Response Project (ELRP), which consists of a grant for $53.7 million, will boost South Sudan’s response to desert locusts by restoring livelihoods for the poorest and strengthening the country’s preparedness systems. The project will ensure direct income to the most vulnerable households to allow them to produce more food for themselves and local markets, as well as use labor intensive public works to provide income opportunities while promoting restoration of pasture and farming systems.

World Bank 8 June 2021

South Sudan Blocks UN Peacekeepers from Volatile Areas

The new chief of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) says U.N. peacekeepers are being blocked from accessing some sensitive areas, despite an agreement by South Sudan’s government to cooperate with the mission. 

Nicholas Haysom was appointed by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres earlier this year to oversee the activities of 14,500 U.N. soldiers and 2,000 police in the country.

In an exclusive interview with VOA’s “South Sudan in Focus” program, Haysom said U.N. peacekeepers are not able to patrol in Western Equatoria and Western Bahr El Ghazal states, due to a lack of consent from the South Sudan government.

Voice of America 14 June 2021

North Africa

Western Sahara

Why Biden’s Western Sahara policy remains under review

Former United States President Donald Trump shocked many observers when, in December of last year, his administration broke with years of international consensus to recognise Morocco’s claim to the disputed territory of Western Sahara.

The move, which came in the context of a normalisation deal between Israel and Morocco, made Washington the first Western power to explicitly recognise Rabat’s claim to the vast region, bucking the United Nations’ official designation of Western Sahara as a “Non-Self-Governing Territory”.

Now, months into Joe Biden’s tenure in the White House, the Democratic president has yet to take a position on the recognition, which analysts say further undermines the administration’s pledge to honour international norms in its foreign policy.

Aljazeera 13 June 2021

Spain-Morocco tensions: How the EU can make progress on Western Sahara

Any neighbourhood is made up of personal, commercial, investment, and cultural ties. But it also comprises geopolitical tensions – ties and knots. What we are currently witnessing either side of the Strait of Gibraltar is a dangerous escalation of threats that tighten knots and weaken ties between Spain and Morocco.

It is in Spain’s interest to prevent the situation from festering any further and find ways to rekindle bilateral relations. Firstly, it is necessary to identify the issues at stake, some of which are fundamental, such as the human rights implications of the images of drowned bodies at the Tarajal point of entry in Ceuta, and others of great significance, such as Algeria’s role in the appearance of the leader of Polisario, Brahim Gali, in the European Union. Secondly, it should be recognised that the crux of the crisis, and therefore the key to understanding it, is made up of two events; Gali’s presence in Spain, and the arrival of 8,000 undocumented migrants in Ceuta, facilitated by the Moroccan authorities. Lastly, to fully grasp the situation, it must be analysed through the bilateral, European, and international lenses.

European Council of Foreign Relations 17 June 2021

International Affairs

Palestinian woman shot dead by Israeli troops near Jerusalem

Israeli forces have shot a Palestinian woman dead allegedly for attempting to carry out a car-ramming attack northeast of Jerusalem, according to the Israeli army.

Palestinian media, which identified the victim as doctoral student Mai Afanah, 29, from Abu Dis, said she was shot and left bleeding at the scene of the incident on Wednesday.

A military statement said the woman attempted to ram her car into a group of Israeli soldiers before exiting the vehicle with a knife near the town of Hizma, northeast of Jerusalem.

An Israeli soldier was slightly wounded, according to Israeli media.

Aljazeera 16 June 2021

Israeli officer charged in killing of autistic Palestinian

Israeli prosecutors on Thursday charged a border police officer with reckless manslaughter in the deadly shooting of an autistic Palestinian man in Jerusalem’s Old City last year.

The indictment came just over a year after the shooting of Eyad Hallaq. Hallaq’s family had previously criticised Israeli authorities’ investigation into his killing, and called for much tougher charges.

The officer, who remains unidentified in the indictment submitted to the Jerusalem District Court on Thursday, was charged with reckless manslaughter, and if convicted could face up to 12 years in prison.

Hallaq, 32, was fatally shot just inside the Old City’s Lion’s Gate on May 30, 2020, as he was on his way to the special-needs institution that he attended. The officer’s commander, who was also present during the incident, was not charged.

Aljazeera 17 June 2021

Myanmar

UN Assembly to vote on resolution condemning Myanmar military

The UN General Assembly will vote on Friday on a non-binding resolution condemning the military regime in Myanmar and calling on member states to curb the “flow of arms” into the violence-wracked country, diplomats said.

The vote will come on the same day that the Security Council holds informal talks on the situation in the country, where the military overthrew elected civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and seized power on February 1.

The draft General Assembly resolution, which was obtained by the AFP news agency, was weeks in the making, and follows talks between western countries and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which is acting as a mediator in the crisis.

The two sides will look on Friday to see the resolution adopted by consensus, not a vote, one diplomat told AFP on Thursday.

Aljazeera 18 June 2021

Detained US journalist makes appearance in Myanmar court

Danny Fenster, an American journalist arrested last month by Myanmar authorities, has made an appearance in a special court in the prison where he is being held, his employer said.

However, US consular officials are still being denied access to Fenster, State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Thursday.

A statement from Frontier Myanmar, the current affairs magazine where Fenster is managing editor, said he faces a charge of incitement, which carries a potential three-year prison term.

The charge, used frequently against dissidents and journalists, criminalises “any attempt to cause fear, spread false news, or agitate directly or indirectly a criminal offense against a government employee”.

Aljazeera 17 June 2021