News Briefs 23 June 2022

Southern Africa Focus


Minister claims only a few nurses on strike; MP ordered to withdraw cheeky question about VP whereabouts ‘as country burns’

Leader of government business in Parliament Ziyambi Ziyambi claimed Wednesday that only a few doctors and nurses were on strike as he reiterated the administration’s refusal to pay salaries in foreign currency. Public health workers have been on strike since Monday, demanding – among other things – that their salaries should be paid United States dollars.

The job action was brought up in Parliament by legislators who demanded to know what government was doing to end the strike. Said opposition MP Sipho Mokone; “Minister, on Monday we saw the nurses and doctors downing tools, which means that no one can access healthcare right now in Government hospitals.

“The situation is very bad, especially for the expectant mother because there is no one who is there to assist the woman when she is due to give birth.”

New Zimbabwe 23 June 2022

Zimbabwe healthcare workers strike over wages, inflation crisis

Zimbabwean healthcare workers have gone on strike to compel the government to pay salaries in US dollars as spiralling inflation has eroded the purchasing power of their take-home pay.

The country’s nurses, doctors, pharmacists, radiologists and other medical professionals did not turn up for work on Monday in an action that strike organisers described as a huge “success”.

Striking workers held placards and danced outside Zimbabwe’s main hospitals, such as Parirenyatwa in the capital Harare, which is one of the country’s largest referral hospitals, and Sally Mugabe Central Hospital, also in the capital, demanding better salaries.

Dr Tapiwanashe Kusotera, the leader of Health Apex, a body representing all unions in the healthcare sector, described the strike as a “good first day”, which was marked by strong support for the strike across the country.

Aljazeera 20 June 2022

Democratic Republic of Congo

Congo-M23 ceasefire fails

The ceasefire between Democratic Republic of Congo troops and M23 rebels that was supposed to take effect immediately on Monday has failed as different parties make their own interpretations of the East African Community (EAC) heads of State Conclave resolutions. The EAC heads of State on Monday   agreed on an immediate ceasefire in eastern DRC and agreed that rebels begin withdrawing from their captured positions.

But by yesterday evening, M23 rebels hadn’t withdrawn from the Bunagana border town, which they captured last week. Instead, the rebel group, which the DRC government accuses of being supported by Rwanda, carried out an offensive on Kitagoma Town, another key Uganda-Congo border crossing, yesterday but they failed to capture it.

Maj Willy Ngoma, the spokesperson of the M23 rebels, said in a telephone interview yesterday that they will continue to hold the captured territory. He also said their leaders will meet to discuss the resolution made by EAC leaders.

“We are still in charge of this area. We shall soon release a written document in response to the orders that were issued by the East African Community heads of State,” Maj Ngoma said.

Monitor 22 June 2022


Thousands languishing at home as attacks in Eswatini lead to safety concerns

Thousands of Emaswati who work for Inyatsi Construction have been left in limbo following attacks at the company’s operations.

After an arson attack last week, the company suspended its operations Monday, resulting in over 2 300 workers being sent home. They would not be earning a salary until the company resumes operations.

According to sources in the kingdom, the company is reeling from arson attacks and damage to infrastructure, allegedly at the hands of Pro-Democracy movements.

In a statement released by the company, it indicated it had taken a proactive stance to tighten security in response to the escalating and recurring targeted attacks that have resulted in the destruction of machinery and equipment at three of its sites over the last year.

According to the company, the attacks have caused damage of over R65 million.

IOL 21 June 2022

‘Pick up the spear against Eswatini,’ says Mapaila

Former Umkhonto We Sizwe Commander Amos Mbedzi was buried during a very tense and heart-breaking funeral service held at Makonde Sports Grounds on Sunday morning.

Mbedzi, known as “Messiah Thebe” in the MK camps outside the country, was detained in Eswatini in 2008, before being sentenced to 85 years in prison.

Mbedzi’s younger brother, Rudzani Mbedzi, had some mourners shedding tears when he detailed how his brother was being tortured by the Eswatini government. He nearly broke into tears himself when he said his brother was shackled, tortured daily in Eswatini and was also treated the same way by the democratic South African government when he was transferred back to his land of birth to finish his sentence.

“He was always chained in Eswatini, and it was the same when he was brought back into the country. He also died in chains, and I can see members of the correctional services here, meaning we are burying him as a prisoner,” he said.

Zoutnet 18 June 2022

East Africa and the Horn


No time for complacency: Somalia’s unfolding famine catastrophe

Somalia is on the brink of catastrophe. A recent assessment suggests that 7.7 million Somalis need emergency aid right now, a similar number to those affected by the Ethiopian famine in 1984, one of the worst humanitarian disasters in history. About one million people died then.

The warnings have been coming for some time.

The immediate trigger for the likely famine is three successive years of failed rains leading to the worst drought in the Horn of Africa for four decades. Underlying that are rising temperatures from climate change. Compounding factors include longstanding political and social fractures, with decades of conflict and poor governance.

Somalia is also strongly affected by the Ukraine-Russia war. It gets 90% of its wheat from that region which makes up two-thirds of the Somalian diet. The prices of cooking oil, beans, rice and sugar have also doubled from the conflict’s secondary consequences: higher costs for fuel, transport and agricultural inputs like fertiliser.

SABC News 22 June 2022

Considering Political Engagement with Al-Shabaab in Somalia

The war with Al-Shabaab’s Islamist insurgency has torn apart Somalia for more than fifteen years and shows no sign of abating. Military operations by Somalia’s government and its foreign partners have been stymied in part by discord between Mogadishu and the country’s regions, known as federal member states. For its part, Al-Shabaab has proven resilient, adjusting to counter-insurgency campaigns and entrenching itself deeper in parts of Somali society. The government that has just come to power, led by President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, may boost confidence that Somali forces can take the fight to militants. Yet even new leadership is unlikely to prevail over Al-Shabaab by force alone. Mohamud’s government should continue military operations and redouble efforts to repair relations among Somali elites. At the same time, it should seek to engage Al-Shabaab’s leaders to test whether political talks might be feasible and explore initial confidence-building steps that could reduce violence. The challenges to dialogue with militants are huge, but given that the alternative is incessant war, engagement is worth a shot.

Though military campaigns ousted Al-Shabaab from Somali cities in the early 2010s, counter-insurgency efforts by the government backed by a 19,000-strong African Union (AU) force have floundered of late, and time is running out. Political division underpins the failure. Relations between the federal government and some member states became more rancorous under Mohamud’s predecessor, President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, or “Farmajo”. But elites have long channelled energy – even before Farmajo’s tenure – into bickering over power and resources, leaving the struggle against Al-Shabaab a secondary concern. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking. A re-hatted AU force, whose mandate was renewed in April, will, in principle, keep Al-Shabaab at bay while Somali security forces build up, allowing AU troops to pull out by the end of 2024. In reality, few believe that Somali forces will be ready by then. The fraught debates of late 2021 over the AU mission’s extension illustrate that international patience with the present model of external assistance is waning.

Crisis Group Report 21 June 2022

Central African Republic

Landmark Meeting Marks ‘Critical Juncture’ towards Peace in Central African Republic, Special Representative Tells Security Council, Urging Support for Follow-Up

Having spent her inaugural months working to build trust and revive the political process in the Central African Republic, the Special Representative for the country today pressed the Security Council to unanimously support the follow-up to a landmark summit in Bangui viewed by authorities and regional partners alike as a viable path towards gradual peace and stability.

Briefing the Council for the first time since assuming her position, Valentine Rugwabiza, who is also the Head of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), said the strategic review meeting, held on 4 June, marked a “critical juncture” in the country’s direction.

She said President Faustin Archange Touadera, along with the foreign ministers of Angola and Rwanda and other international and regional partners, assessed implementation of the Joint Roadmap for Peace in the Central African Republic, adopted by the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region in September 2021.

Relief Web 22 June 2022

Russian mercenaries accused of deadly attacks on mines on Sudan-CAR border

Russian mercenaries have mounted a series of bloody attacks on artisanal mines in the lawless border zones between Sudan and Central African Republic (CAR) in an effort to plunder the region’s valuable gold trade, witnesses and experts have said.

Dozens of miners are thought to have died in at least three major attacks this year allegedly involving mercenaries working for the Wagner Group, a private military company that has been linked to the Kremlin by western officials. There are also reports of further attacks on mines in at least six other places across CAR.

Witnesses interviewed in Sudan by the Guardian described “massacres” by fighters they identified as being from Wagner who swept through encampments full of migrant miners and mine workings between the north-eastern town of Am Daga and the frontier over a six-week period.

The Guardian 21 June 2022


African Union Quits ‘Dishonest’ Sudan Talks

The African Union has said it will no longer broker talks on getting Sudan’s transition back on track after an October military coup as a civilian boycott had made them “dishonest”.

“The AU cannot continue these dishonest, opaque discussions which sideline participants or treat them in an unjust way,” the bloc’s ambassador to Sudan, Mohammed Belaiche, told reporters late Tuesday.

The AU suspended Sudan after the military’s 27 October overthrow of a joint civilian-military transitional government installed in the aftermath of the army’s 2019 ouster of longtime president Omar al-Bashir.

Many foreign donors cut off aid, which accounts for 40% of state revenues, prompting military leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan to agree to talks launched by the United Nations, the AU and east African bloc IGAD earlier this month.

EWN 22 June 2022

Sudan: New Deadly Attacks in West Darfur

New attacks by armed Arab assailants on civilians in west Darfur since April 2022 have left hundreds dead, thousands displaced, and hundreds of civilian homes scorched, and property looted, Human Rights Watch said today.

The large-scale violence has been carried out particularly against civilians in Kerenik and Kulbus. It underscores the Sudanese government’s failure to fulfill its duty to protect civilians and the urgent need for ramped up United Nations monitoring, protection through its presence, and public reporting on events in Darfur.

“The last two months have shown all too starkly the devastating dividends of withdrawing peacekeepers and ignoring the ongoing need to protect civilians in Darfur,” said Mohamed Osman, Sudan researcher at Human Rights Watch. “It’s hard not to feel like the international community, which watched Darfur with eagle eyes for years, has completely abandoned these victims of ethnic cleansing.”

Human Rights Watch 22 June 2022

South Sudan

South Sudan fights child marriage where girls sold for cows

Some young girls are still auctioned off into marriage for cows in South Sudan — one of the social challenges that activists had hoped to highlight during Pope Francis’ now-postponed visit.

The price of a daughter, determined in negotiations between her father and would-be husband, is typically 50 to 100 cows, each worth up to $1,000. A girl viewed as beautiful, fertile and of high social rank can bring as many as 200 cows. One girl in a well-publicized case a few years ago was auctioned off for 520 cows, plus cars.

“The younger the girl marries, the more the family gets cattle in return,” said Jackline Nasiwa, executive director of the Center of Inclusive Governance, Peace and Justice in South Sudan’s capital, Juba. “They sell their daughters so that they get something to survive.”

Though South Sudanese law limits marriage to those age 18 and over, it’s rarely enforced, particularly in rural areas.

AP 22 June 2022

Window of opportunity closing for South Sudan, on road to lasting peace

With eight months remaining, the window of opportunity is closing for South Sudan to meet critical benchmarks required to complete its transition away from long-running civil conflict, the Special Representative for the country told the Security Council on Monday, pressing parties to the November 2018 peace deal, to implement their commitments in letter and spirit.

“This includes the full and proper participation of women in all the mechanisms contemplated by the [Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan]”, said Nicholas Haysom, who is also Head of the UN Mission there (UNMISS).

Despite delays, he said progress has been made.  The parties overcame a critical impasse to reach a breakthrough agreement on a single joint command structure for the Necessary Unified Forces on 3 April.

UN News 20 June 2022

North Africa and the Sahara

Western Sahara

Spanish businesses condemned for ‘whitewashing’ Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara

Spanish businesses condemned for ‘whitewashing’ Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara

Campaigners have condemned Spanish businesses for taking part in an investment forum that started in the Moroccan-occupied town of Dakhla in Western Sahara today.

The initiative was spearheaded by the Moroccan Ministry of Industry and Trade, and the regional council of Dakhla-Oued Eddahad, an administrative body established by Rabat.

“We condemn Spanish businesses and investors taking part in this forum that has the singular objective of whitewashing an illegal occupation,” chairwoman of Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW) Sylvia Valentin said.

“Participating firms should be aware that they are but small pawns in a bigger ploy designed to benefit an occupying regime, not the interested firms: there is no legal framework in place that can be invoked to secure investments in the territory that do not have the consent of the sovereign people of the territory: the Saharawis,” she added.

Morning Star 21 June 2022

Algeria cuts tourism ties with Spain over Western Sahara row

Algeria has cut its tourism ties with Spain in a new escalation between the two counties over a row on Western Sahara in Morocco.

The Algerian ministry of tourism requested told all tour operators to suspend tourism relations with Spain in a circular sent this week, according to The New Arab’s Arabic-language sister site Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.

Travel and tourism agencies across the country were ordered to freeze reservations they made with hotels and Spanish transport companies with immediate effect, according to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, to curb the flow of Algerian tourists to Spain – the second biggest holiday destination for Algerians, after Tunisia.

It follows Algeria’s suspension of a decades-old treaty with Spain earlier this month, according to the document, after Madrid backed the position of the North African country’s arch-rival Morocco on the Western Sahara issue, which lies south of the Moroccan border.

The New Arab 22 June 2022