Southern Africa Focus
s Zimbabwe counts down to the 2023 elections, civil society is yet again fighting for its very existence. The parliament has, since November 2021, been working towards the amendment of the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Act. If passed, the amendments will provide the government additional and extensive powers to control how civil society organisations govern themselves. This poses a serious threat to the constitutionally enshrined principles of freedom of expression, association and assembly.
The Bill is one of many initiatives to repress voices of dissent in a country that has long been in a state of political and economic crisis because of governance failures and mismanagement. It is also an effort to control the oppositions’ voices ahead of next year’s general election, where the ruling Zanu-PF party could face an unprecedented challenge at the voters’ booth, and is indicative of the deteriorating relations between government and human rights and governance-focused civil society organisations.
The current state of the Bill
The Bill was first gazetted on 5 November 2021. It has gone through numerous public hearings and a second reading in parliament. It must still go through further parliamentary committee debates and a third reading before being passed in the house and sent for presidential assent to come into law. But the government seems intent on expediting its passing, citing growing concerns about money laundering and terrorist financing activities in the region, which the Bill is ostensibly meant to address.
Mail& Guardian 22 July 2022
Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere says her party has invented a comprehensive strategy on how it plans to free the country from two decades of western imposed sanctions if voted into power next year.
Britain, backed by the EU and the US, slapped a targeted travel and trade embargo on some Zimbabwean politicians and firms accused of abetting rights abuses, corruption and poll theft by the then Robert Mugabe led administration. The powers have adamantly kept the measures in place pending behavioural change by Harare although they have been relaxed gradually.
The Zanu-PF led government has repeatedly blamed sanctions for the country’s economic ruin. Mahere has told the media that CCC has the elusive cure for sanctions contained in a party blueprint set to be launched in the near future.
“We are certainly going to be launching the New Great Zimbabwe blueprint setting out our comprehensive policy alternatives that will set out a detailed plan on how to end Zimbabwe’s international isolation as the government in-waiting,” she said.
Bulawayo24 22 July 2022
King Mswati would only attend the Pretoria summit virtually, so the other presidents called it off.
Regional efforts to resolve the crisis in Eswatini hit another major stumbling block this week when a second summit intended to discuss a national political dialogue in the troubled kingdom was cancelled at the last moment.
Ministers and officials had been meeting for days to prepare the summit of the security organ of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) for this Thursday, which would have been chaired by President Cyril Ramaphosa, who currently heads the security organ.
Sources said Eswatini’s King Mswati had at the last moment said he could only participate virtually, but the other members of the SADC security organ troika, including Ramaphosa, Namibian President Hage Geingob and Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi insisted on a face-to-face meeting with Mswati on such an important issue.
Daily Maverick 19 July 2022
Absolute monarch of Eswatini, King Mswati III, has been eager to emphasise the legacy of Regent Queen Labotsibeni. She is celebrated by today’s monarchy as an astute and influential leader who protected Swazi territory during colonial encroachment.
In 2019, between opening a glitzy hotel and a new corporate building, King Mswati unveiled a towering bronze statue of Regent Queen Labotsibeni along a street also named in her honour in the country’s capital, Mbabane.
Though he is not known to be as diplomatic as Labotsibeni was, Mswati shares many traits with the Regent Queen — most obviously the masses of wealth and intense inclination for self-preservation that defines the Eswatini royal family. Less familiar is their shared affinity for aircraft. In 1918, Queen Labotsibeni famously bought a plane for the Allied war effort. One hundred years later in 2018, King Mswati spent R2.7-billion on his latest private jet and parking space for the plane.
Daily Maverick 21 July 2022
Democratic Republic of Congo
A Congolese minister has warned he could propose “militarising” wildlife parks in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo to protect them from rebels he says are supported by Rwanda.
Tourism Minister Modero Nsimba accused Rwanda — which this week is hosting an international conference on protected wildlife areas in Africa — of hypocrisy. “The host country is backing a rebel group, the M23, which is killing, looting and ransacking a protected area that is inscribed on the world heritage list, the Virunga National Park,” he told a press conference late Wednesday.
“Those taking part in the Kigali meeting and the international community should formally condemn Rwanda and move to protect the Virunga Park, this world heritage, in the same way that the world acted unanimously when the mosques in Timbuktu in Mali were attacked” by jihadists in 2012, he said.
Failing that, “I will propose militarising protected areas in eastern DRC,” he said.
Monitor 21 July 2022
The return of a long dormant rebel group in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is overstretching an underfunded humanitarian relief operation and piling hardship onto communities that are already contending with dozens of other armed insurgencies.
For several months, the March 23 Movement (M23) rebel group has fought Congolese troops in North Kivu province. UN experts say its sights are set on Goma – a city of nearly two million people – though the group discounts this and has called for dialogue.
M23’s revival, almost ten years after it was thought defeated, has undermined regional stability. DRC accuses neighbouring Rwanda of backing the group, while a UN expert report states that individuals in Rwandan army uniforms were seen in M23 camps. Kigali denies the charge.
Civilians are facing the worst of the crisis, just as they did a decade ago: 170,000 have escaped their homes since late March, hundreds of children have been separated from their families, and hate speech is rising across the country.
The New humanitarian 21 July 2022
East Africa and the Horn
Militants from Somali Islamist group al Shabaab attacked two villages near the border with Ethiopia, killing 17 people including three civilians and Ethiopian police officers inside Somali territory while 63 of its fighters were killed, an Ethiopian security commander at the scene said.
The rare border-area attack occurred on Wednesday when fighters of the al Qaeda-linked group raided Yeed and Aato villages in Somalia’s Bakool region after the killing days earlier of one of their commanders on the Ethiopian side of the border, the Ethiopian commander said.
Attacks by al Shabaab in areas near Ethiopia’s border are rare because of a robust Ethiopian security presence in the region and inside Somalia, where they are also part of an African peacekeeping force.
Reuters 22 July 2022
The United States killed two al-Shabaab miltants in an airstrike on Sunday, the US Africa Command’s (Africom) public affairs section has said in a statement.
No civilians were injured or killed in the attack, it said.
“In coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia, US Africa Command conducted an airstrike against al-Shabaab terrorists after they attacked partner forces in a remote location near Libikus, Somalia [on] 17 July 2022.
“The command’s initial assessment is that two al-Shabaab terrorists were killed in action and that no civilians were injured or killed, given the remote nature of where this engagement occurred,” Africom said.
This was the second attack since US President Joe Biden ordered the return of US forces to Somalia in May.
News24 20 July 2022
Central African Republic
The Central African Republic reports today one of the highest proportions of critically food-insecure people in the world, along with Yemen, South Sudan, and Afghanistan. 2.2 million people in the country do not have enough to eat, which represents 36 per cent of the population. A large part of this population lives in conflict-affected areas, where insecurity and displacement have reduced areas available for cultivation and hampered access to markets and fields. The impact of the war in Ukraine is further aggravating the situation, with the prices of basic food items projected to increase up to 70% by August.
It is in this context that the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mr. Martin Griffiths, allocated US$15 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) rapid response window for life-saving measures against food insecurity in the country. The CERF funds will help actors scale up comprehensive emergency assistance for 200,000 people in 10 sub-prefectures where food insecurity is most severe. A multi-sectoral approach combining food assistance, nutrition, health care, water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) and protection will maximise the impact of food security interventions and reduce people’s use of negative coping mechanisms associated with food scarcity in a context of extreme deprivation.
Relief Web 19 July 2022
Central African Republic will start selling a cryptocurrency it says will be worth $21m (R360m) next week, it said on Friday, amid a wider rout in the industry and scepticism over the project’s feasibility in a poorly connected, war-torn country.
The “Sango Coin”, described as a “national digital currency” will go on sale on July 21 with a minimum investment of $500 to be paid in cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin and ethereum, according to the country’s Sango investment website.
Central African Republic, where access to the internet and electricity is low, became the first African state to make bitcoin legal tender in April, raising eyebrows among many crypto experts and drawing words of caution from the International Monetary Fund.
Business Day Live 15 July 2022
Tribal fighting in Sudan’s Blue Nile state has forced thousands of people from their homes after violence broke out earlier in July over a land dispute between the Birta and Hausa ethnic groups.
The clashes in the state bordering South Sudan and Ethiopia have resulted in a spiralling humanitarian crisis, as aid organisations await the cessation of the hostilities to deliver assistance. Authorities have said that at least 105 people have been killed.
Sara Mohammed said she fled al-Damazin as soon as she heard reports of tribal fighting and headed to the neighbouring Sennar state. “It took us more than six hours of walking to get here and now we have nothing except what we were given by the host communities,” she said.
Aljazeera 22 July 2022
The UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan, Khardiata Lô N’Diaye, has expressed her support for the victims of the recent intercommunal violence and mass displacement in Blue Nile state, saying that the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is “providing assistance to the thousands of vulnerable people in parts of Blue Nile state”.
Various humanitarian stakeholders working in concert with OCHA are also aiming to expand the field capacity of the Ed Damazin Royal Teaching Hospital, by providing tents and outpatient treatment to cope with the increasing caseload. The organisations will provide enough health and medical supplies for 30,000 people, including emergency health and trauma kits. They will also provide meals to around 4,500 displaced people.
The UN statement confirmed that the aid package would be delivered to the Federal Ministry of Health, which would then be sent to Blue Nile state. On a state level, the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors described the Blue Nile state Health Ministry as being absent. “El Roseires and Ed Damazin hospitals are flooded with casualties, and there are shortages in everything including medical workers who are doing their best in this complicated situation,” the doctors committee reported on its Facebook page.
AllAfrica 21 July 2022
South Sudan and Uganda are holding their first ever Joint Business Forum in Juba, seeking to boost trade and investment ties “through industrialisation and infrastructure development”.
The three-day forum and exhibition, which kicked off on Tuesday, has attracted over 200 businesspeople from the public and private sectors.
Uganda says the talks will help to identify ways to enhance investment opportunities and the already vibrant trade relations between both countries and consequently improve the livelihood of their people.
“The forum will create enormous benefits for both countries, including employment opportunities and a larger market access for both goods and services,” the Foreign Affairs ministry said in a statement.
South Sudan is one of Uganda’s largest trading partners. In 2021, trade between the two countries was worth $389 million, according to the Bank of Uganda report, not considering the large volumes of informal trade across the borders.
The East African 20 July 2022
The United States has pulled out of the systems that monitor the peace process in South Sudan because of the country’s failure to meet reform milestones, the State Department said Friday.
South Sudan continues to face chronic instability even after rival leaders President Salva Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar agreed to form a unity government more than two years ago, following a conflict that left nearly 400,000 people dead from 2013 to 2018.
A transition period is set to end in February 2023, but many key provisions of the deal have not been met, including drafting a permanent constitution.
The United States cited that “lack of sustained progress” Friday as the reason for withdrawing from two peacekeeping organizations monitoring the impoverished country’s path to implement the transition: the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (RJMEC) and the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (CTSAMVM).
“South Sudan’s leaders have not fully availed themselves of the support these monitoring mechanisms provide and have demonstrated a lack of political will necessary to implement critical reforms,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
Voice of America 15 July 2022
North Africa and the Sahara
Fighting intensifies in occupied Western Sahara as Moroccan autonomy plans rejected
Fighting has intensified in Western Sahara with Sahrawi guerilla forces launching a number of attacks on areas held by occupying Moroccan troops.
Battle continues as a number of countries reject Morocco’s stance on the status of the disputed territory and back the United Nations position on an independence referendum.
Polisario commandos destroyed a number of military checkpoints belonging to Morocco over the weekend and a number of its positions along the security wall.
The Sahrawi Ministry of Defence said that its latest offensive has caused “innumerable losses of life and equipment among the ranks of the Moroccan army.”
Battle has ensued in Mahbes, a town occupied by Morocco close to the border with Mauritania and Algeria.
Morning Star 20 July 2022