News Briefs 23 October 2021:

Southern Africa:


Corruption and state capture, not sanctions, are the cause of Zimbabwe’s economic meltdown

The conflation of the state, politics and business is a triangular marriage that has continued to push the monetary, fiscal and economic burdens on to ordinary citizens who are muzzled and disempowered from holding accountable those in the vortex of corruption and abuse of power.

he United Nations Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, Ms Alena Douhan, will undertake an official visit to Zimbabwe from 18 to 28 October 2021 following an invitation from the government of Zimbabwe. The UN Special Rapporteur’s office is established in terms of the Human Rights Council resolution 34/13 on human rights and unilateral coercive measures.

The invitation of the Special Rapporteur comes because Zimbabwe was put under sanctions by the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (Zidera) of 2001 by the US and the European Union Restrictive Measures, first introduced in 2002.

The Zidera and the EU restrictive measures have received mixed opinions and views in equal measure related to their legality and their impacts on the economy and the general populace in Zimbabwe.

Daily Maverick 20 October 2021

Zimbabwe’s MDC Alliance Claims Leader Chamisa Survived Shooting Incident

Zimbabwe’s main opposition MDC Alliance said that its leader, Nelson Chamisa, escaped an assassination attempt in the eastern city of Mutare after a bullet shattered the windows of his car.

Last week, the party made a similar claim after Chamisa’s motorcade was stoned by ruling party supporters in the southern province of Masvingo.

Chamisa was at the rural village of Birchenough Bridge. A video shared on social media showed cheering crowds running beside his convoy. But the reception he got later in the nearby city of Mutare was starkly different.

The MDC Alliance said that unmarked cars belonging to alleged Zanu-PF supporters tried to block his motorcade and that shots were fired.

EWN 20 October 2021


Eswatini bans protests as hospital floors ‘drenched in blood’, mediation begins

Africa’s last absolute monarchy Eswatini on Thursday banned protests as regional mediators landed in the kingdom amid rumbling pro-democracy demonstrations.

A demonstrator died in hospital on Thursday from gunshot wounds sustained the day before when security forces opened fire on a protest, according to unions.

At least 30 health workers were treated for gunshot injuries, the nurses’ union said.

Railways workers led new protests on Thursday in the kingdom formerly known as Swaziland.

Public Works Minister Prince Simelane told a news conference:

“Due to the spate of violent cases during protests, I have stopped all city and town municipals from issuing permits to hold protests.”

News24 22 October 2021

Former Cabinet minister Jeff Radebe heads Ramaphosa’s team to engage Mswati amid violent protests

President Cyril Ramaphosa will dispatch special envoys to Eswatini this week to address the growing violence in the country with King Mswati III, as violent protests continue in the country.

Police fired live ammunition and rubber bullets to disperse a march in the capital Mbabane on Wednesday, according to local media. Some activists said seven protesters had been killed during the day in the disturbances, which have been continuing for weeks.

Former Cabinet minister Jeff Radebe will head the team of envoys from South Africa, Namibia and Botswana, who are expected to travel to Eswatini this week, Ramaphosa’s office said in a statement.

The envoys originally hoped to travel today and to meet Mswati on Thursday afternoon, according to a letter from South Africa’s High Commission in Eswatini to the Swazi ministry of foreign affairs requesting the meeting.

Daily Maverick 22 October 2021

Democratic Republic of Congo

DR Congo pupils protest for schools to reopen

Hundreds of secondary school pupils demonstrated outside the Democratic Republic of Congo’s parliament on Thursday, calling for lessons to resume three weeks into a teachers’ strike.

“We want to study,” the children chanted as they stormed up the steps and into the debating chamber.

Videos shared by journalists on social media showed them being met by the parliament’s deputy speaker.

Congolese schools officially reopened on October 4, but lessons are yet to begin in many institutions as teachers have been striking for higher wages.

Schools minister Tony Mwaba has warned those participating in walkouts that they could be struck off the payroll altogether.

Daily Monitor 21 October 2021

After mining, DR Congo turns focus on ‘illegal’ forest harvesting contracts

The Democratic Republic of Congo government has announced an imminent purge of “doubtful contracts” in the forestry sector, promising another round of anxiety in an area of the economy deemed exploited by foreign entities.

The decision was announced on Monday by the government spokesman and Minister for Information Patrick Muyaya, who said Kinshasa would revisit all permits on tree harvesting to ensure they are not exploiting the country.

Mr Muyaya said line officials had been directed to conduct a “technical and financial” audit on all forest concessions in the DRC.

President Felix Tshisekedi, he said, has also ordered Ève Bazaiba, the Deputy Prime Minister in charge of the Environment and Sustainable Development, to suspend “all doubtful contracts pending the outcome of the audit.”

The East African 19 October 2021

Central African Republic

Positive momentum in Central African Republic must be maintained

The announcement last week of a unilateral ceasefire in the Central African Republic is among recent positive steps in the country, the top UN official there told the Security Council on Monday, urging continued support for peace and reconciliation efforts.

Mankeur Ndiaye, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UN peacekeeping operation, MINUSCA, underlined the need to maintain “positive momentum” as the authorities strive to achieve democracy and stability in the wake of presidential and parliamentary elections.

The UN mission’s mandate expires next month, and Mr. Ndiaye said an extension is especially needed to assist with local elections, which have not been held in more than 30 years. 18 October 2021

Russian mercenaries leave trail of destruction in the Central African Republic

When the tattooed Russian fighters arrived in Alindao, a town in the southern Central African Republic (CAR), the rebels fled — and the people rejoiced.

“They were white. They were very big,” said Fatima, 32. “They looked so strange, they had tattoos everywhere — snakes, skulls, human heads?.?.?.[but] they were going to help.”

But soon stories began circulating from nearby villages — of looting and torture, killings and rape. Then one day last month they took Fatima’s brother from their home. The next, they took her to a nearby military camp, where she says three of them raped her until she lost consciousness.

“They were very scary — we were all so scared,” she said. “We thought they came here to restore peace to our country. Now I wish they’d never come.”

Financial Times 22 October 2021


Somalia’s president, prime minister agree to speed up election

Somalia’s president and prime minister resolved a dispute over appointments to security bodies, allowing a stalled process to elect a new parliament and president to go ahead, the government spokesman said late on Thursday.

Somalia was meant to choose a new president this month, culminating a complicated indirect election process that would also select a parliament.

But that was halted during a dispute between President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed and Prime Minister Mohammed Hussein Roble over who would head the National Intelligence Service Agency.

The president and the prime minister had each appointed a different candidate to replace the head of the agency, who was suspended last month after an agent went missing.

Reuters 22 October 2021

AMISOM Admits Killing 7 Civilians in Lower Shabelle

The Board of Inquiry (BOI) convened by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to investigate allegations of civilian casualties in Golweyn on 10 August 2021, has established that, regrettably, the seven people killed were civilians and the conduct of the personnel involved was in breach of the AMISOM Rules of Engagement.

The six-member Board, which was chaired by a representative from the African Union Commission Headquarters in Addis Ababa with membership including representatives from both AMISOM and the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS), confirmed that, on that fateful day, AMISOM soldiers did, indeed, encounter Al-Shabaab fighters at the area of the incident, following which there were exchanges of gun fire.

In the encounter, one AMISOM soldier was killed and another sustained gunshot injuries.

Accordingly, AMISOM takes full responsibility for the unlawful acts of its personnel.

All Africa 22 October 2021


Rival Sudan camps take to streets as tensions rise

Thousands of supporters of Sudan’s transition to a civilian-led democracy took to the streets Thursday as rival demonstrators kept up a sit-in demanding a return to military rule.

Both sides appealed to their supporters to keep apart and refrain from any violence but there was a heavy police and troop presence around potential flashpoints.

The two sides represent opposing factions of the Forces for Freedom and Change, the civilian umbrella group which spearheaded the nationwide demonstrations that led to the army’s overthrow of long-time president Omar al-Bashir in 2019.

The mainstream faction backs the transition to civilian rule, while supporters of the breakaway faction are demanding that the military take over.

eNCA 21 October 2021

Sudan issues arrest warrant for Petronas country manager: Sources

Sudan’s transitional government has issued an arrest warrant against the country manager of Malaysia’s national oil company Petronas, according to sources.

The move comes following growing tensions between Malaysia and Sudan after the latter moved to seize Petronas’ assets.

Sources said the actions against Petronas, as well as other foreign investors citing allegations of corruption, could negatively affect future bilateral relations.

“Many other countries that have made a lot of investments in Sudan are also monitoring the situation closely. They are worried that they may be the next target of the transitional government,” they said.

Daily Sabah 11 October 2021

South Sudan

“Over-zealous” security undermining peace in South Sudan

State security forces in South Sudan are responsible for new and potentially arbitrary restrictions against prominent civil society leaders, issuing “credible” death threats undermining peace efforts, UN-appointed independent rights experts said this week.

In an alert, the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan alleged “over-zealous” security forces prevented dissent to the extent civic space is eroding “at an accelerating pace”, forcing rights defenders to flee and discouraging others.

“The State targeting high-profile human rights defenders will have a chilling effect on civil society and discourage public participation and corrode confidence in important processes such as transitional justice, constitution making and national elections, essential for success of the transition envisaged by the 2018 Revitalised Peace Agreement,” Commissioner Andrew Clapham said.

Defence Web 21 October 2021

Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan remains vital

The situation of human rights and impunity in South Sudan remains of deep concern.

In July we documented how security forces in Warrap state under the orders of the state governor summarily executed at least eight suspected criminals, including two children, as part of an anti-crime campaign. The UN peacekeeping mission documented similar patterns of arbitrary arrests and extrajudicial executions in both Warrap and Lakes states. Since July, we also have seen detention of political activists, harassment of the press and threats to use live ammunition against protestors.

South Sudan’s authorities do not appear prepared to live up to their commitments under the revitalized peace accord to ensure perpetrators are held to criminal account for war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity committed during the country’s conflict since 2013.

The government announced in January 2021 that it approved the establishment of the accord’s Chapter V accountability mechanisms, more than 5 years after they had been agreed to, but we have seen no concrete action since then on the establishment of the potentially landmark Hybrid Court for South Sudan.

Human Rights Watch 18 October 2021

North Africa

Sahrawi youth return to Western Sahara to stand up to Morocco

As a glowing sun sank behind the sandy barrier that cuts across the disputed territory of Western Sahara, Sidati Ahmed’s battalion launched two missiles that sizzled through the air and then followed with an artillery attack.

Within minutes, a barrage of mortar shells flew in the opposite direction, from Moroccan positions, landing with a thick column of smoke in the barren desert of what is known as Africa’s last colony.

“Low-intensity hostilities,” as a recent United Nations report describes them, have raged for the past year along the 2,700-kilometer (1,700-mile) berm – a barrier second in length only to the Great Wall of China that separates the part of Western Sahara that Morocco rules from the sliver held by the Polisario Front, which wants the territory to be independent. Both sides claim the area in its entirety.

Daily Sabah 21 October 2021

US Senators Want Human-Rights Work Added to UN’s Western Sahara Mission

As abuses against Sahrawi activists and journalists mount in Western Sahara, 10 United States Republican and Democratic senators are urging the Biden administration to include a human-rights element in the work of the United Nations referendum mission in the disputed region, according to an Oct. 14 letter obtained by PassBlue.

As the file holder on Western Sahara in the UN Security Council, the US is responsible for drafting the resolution to renew the mandate of the mission, called Minurso. The current mandate expires this month, and the Council is expected to vote on the renewal by Oct. 31. Minurso is the only UN mission established since 1978 that does not have a dedicated mechanism to monitor violations of human rights. In 2020, the UN high commissioner for human rights was “strongly encouraged” by the Council to report on conditions in Western Sahara directly, but she continues to be blocked from visiting the area, as it has for the last six years.

“As the UN drafts the renewal of MINURSO’s mandate, we urge you to seek the inclusion of language to enable the UN to monitor human rights conditions in the region and continue support for self-determination,” the letter, addressed to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, says. It is signed by Senators Bernie Sanders (Ind-Vermont), Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Mississippi), Richard Durbin (D-Illinois), Michael Rounds (R-South Dakota), Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland), and John Boozman (R-Arkansas).

Pass Blue 21 October 2021