News Briefs 25 June 2021

Southern Africa Focus

Zimbabwe

Two Decades After Land Grab Zimbabwe Starts Paying Farmers

Zimbabwe made its first compensation payment as part of an agreement to settle a dispute with White commercial farmers who had their land seized violently two decades ago.

The state-linked Kuvimba Mining House Ltd. transfered $1 million to the farmers as the government asked for a delay in paying the full $3.5 billion compensation it had agreed to a year ago.

While the payment is a fraction of that agreed to, resolving the dispute is key to the country pulling out of the economic stagnation that the seizures, ordered by then President Robert Mugabe triggered. Exports plunged, relations with multilateral lenders were severed, the U.S and the European Union imposed sanctions and Zimbabwe experienced a bout of hyperinflation.

Business Maverick 24 June 2021

Reopening of Zimbabwe schools delayed

The Zimbabwe government has announced the country’s schools will remain closed for a further two weeks as COVID-19 numbers shoot up.

Schools were supposed to open on 28 June after a one-month holiday, but Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa says this will be delayed by another two weeks following a review by government.

Mutsvangwa says the surge in COVID-19 infections has led security forces to strengthen their operations, especially in hotspots like Kwekwe, Kariba and parts of Bulawayo as well as at border entry points.

eNCA 23 June 2021

eSwatini

eSwatini youth stage rare rural protest against monarchy

Police in eSwatini on Saturday clashed with a rural demonstration demanding democratic reforms in Africa’s last absolute monarchy, an AFP reporter said.

Around 500 youth gathered in a village in the kingdom’s Manzini district to demand the right to vote for their own prime minister, currently appointed by King Mswati III.

They burned tyres, blocked roads and chanted political slogans as they marched through the village, calling on the king to lift a longstanding ban on political parties.

An AFP reporter at the scene said police fired stun grenades and live bullets at the protest – a rare event in rural areas, which tend to support the monarchy.

News24 20 June 2021

Democratic Republic of Congo

Dozens of Congo’s rebels lay down weapons in the east

Dozens of militia fighters in the Democratic Republic of Congo have laid down their weapons and surrendered, the first to do so since President Felix Tshisekedi announced martial law to tackle worsening security in two eastern provinces.

Around 140 men from various local armed groups sang and clapped as they handed themselves in to authorities during a ceremony in Congo’s North Kivu province on Monday. Around 70 weather-beaten weapons, mostly rifles, were also turned in.

Congo’s mineral-rich east has been convulsed with conflict since the official end to the country’s second civil war in 2003. More than 120 armed groups are now fighting for control of the region’s land and natural resources.

“Being in a rebellion means stealing, harassing the population and destroying the environment of the population,” said 28-year-old Jean-Paul Ndagije, who fought with the Nyatura rebel group.

TimesLive 23 June 2021

Lawyer sues to block Congo’s admission to EAC bloc

A Ugandan lawyer has filed a suit with the East African Court of Justice seeking to block the admission of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) into the East African Community (EAC).

Mr Adam Kyomuhendo, an advocate of the High Court of Uganda, filed the suit before the First Instance Division of the regional court against the EAC secretary general and attorney generals of all the partner states.

Mr Kyomuhendo is seeking court orders to restrain the admission of DRC into the six-nation bloc by the EAC Heads of State over the detention of a Ugandan activist.

He wants the admission stayed until hearing and determination of the case. The court will fix the matter for hearing in the next session.

The East African 22 June 2021

Central Africa and the Horn

Somalia

UNHCR Applauds Somalia’s Open-door Refugee Policy

Three decades of violence have left 2.9 million of Somalia’s citizens internally displaced, but the country is also home to 25,000 refugees, including 6,800 Yemenis and over 700 Syrians.

Faith Kasina of the U.N.’s refugee agency, UNHCR, has praised Somalia’s open-door policy for refugees, which allows them to move freely and work, using their skills without the need of a permit.

“Somalia had its own challenges over the years, but we must applaud this country and government because they have maintained an open-door policy for refugees for the past 30 years despite challenges, they have been facing,” Kasina said. “We know that refugees are now able to live among local communities in urban areas and that they can also move around freely in the country.”

Voice of America 20 June 2021

Somalia, United Nations call on youth to enhance role in political participation

Somalia and the United Nations have called on the country’s youth to play a key role in political participation by running for political office in the upcoming elections.

Minister of Youth and Sports Hamza Said Hamza and the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia Adam Abdelmoula said in a joint statement issued Friday that Somalia depends on its youth-led civil society as a source of resilience.

Abdelmoula, who opened a youth conference in Mogadishu on the future of youth political participation, said the youth has led innovative solutions to drive progress for development, peace and reconciliation.

“The opportunity of Somalia as a country depends greatly on the opportunities awarded to its youth. Truly transformative change will happen only when young Somalis are invested in, included and partnered with in a meaningful way,” he said.

Abdelmoula said the political exclusion of young people results in Somalia’s missing out on the transformative ideas and energy of a competent, creative and courageous generation.

Xinhua 19 June 2021

Central African Republic

Central African Republic entrenched in ‘unprecedented humanitarian crisis’

Defense forces, soldiers from nearby countries and other security personnel have been fighting an “asymmetric war” against armed groups, sparking an “unprecedented humanitarian crisis”, the top UN official in the country told the Security Council on Wednesday.

Mankeur Ndiaye, CAR Special Representative and Head of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission (MINUSCA) voiced his concern over a military counter-offensive against the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) – an alliance of armed groups that launched attacks against forces loyal to the Government ahead of the presidential vote in December, which returned incumbent Faustin-Archange Touadéra to power on 4 January. ??

“The result has been an unprecedented humanitarian crisis with new waves of displacement and 57 per cent of the population in need of humanitarian assistance”, he said, addressing ambassadors in French, inside the Council chamber.

UN News 23 June 2021

Chad, Central African Republic call for international investigation into border incident

Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR) have called on the United Nations and African Union to investigate an incident at a border post in which at least six Chadian soldiers were killed by Central African troops, a joint statement said Tuesday.

The incident threatens to escalate tensions between the two countries since Chad participated in African efforts to stabilise CAR in 2013, which has been wracked by rebel insurgencies ever since.

“The two parties have recognised the gravity of the situation and stress the urgency of clarifying the circumstances in which this attack was carried out,” the countries’ foreign ministers said in the statement.

Defence Web 2 June 2021

Sudan

Sudan’s PM calls for unified military after tensions surface

Sudan’s prime minister called for a unified national army on Tuesday in a bid to protect a fragile political transition, amid tensions between the military and the powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

“The big question today is will Sudan exist or not exist,” Abdalla Hamdok said at a press conference, decrying “worrying” divisions between and within civilian and military factions.

Sudanese sources told Reuters that Hamdok is concerned in particular about a widening split between the army and RSF in recent weeks, and the potential for conflict if it continues.

Defence Web 23 June 2021

New joint force to “crack down on insecurity” in Sudan

Sudan’s military has announced plans to create a joint force to “crack down on insecurity” and assert the state’s authority in the capital and nationwide as an economic crisis and regional tensions plague a fragile transition period.

The announcement was made in an order from General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, deputy head of Sudan’s ruling sovereign council, that was published late on Thursday.

Dagalo, also known as Hemedti, is head of the Rapid Support Forces which will be part of the new force with the police, armed forces, General Intelligence Service and “representatives” of rebel groups and the public prosecutor, the order said.

In a speech this week defending reforms meant to tackle a deep economic crisis and stabilise a political transition towards elections, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said there was a danger of chaos or civil war fomented by loyalists of the previous leadership.

Defence Web 21 June 2021

South Sudan

Slow progress, stubborn cycles of violence, as South Sudan turns 10

South Sudan, the UN’s youngest Member State, is marking its tenth anniversary of independence amid languishing political progress and a range of humanitarian challenges, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative told Security Council members on Monday.

Nicholas Haysom, who also heads the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan, known as UNMISS, recalled the broad international optimism that surrounded the country’s independence on 9 July 2011.

A decade later, however, pervasive insecurity – in particular intercommunal violence – continues to obstruct the realization of a durable and sustainable peace.

UN News 21 June 2021

South Sudan and IFAD to boost productivity, food security and resilience of small-scale farmers faced with climate change

A new US$19.9 million project will bring much needed help to 38,800 rural households facing the impacts of poverty, food insecurity and climate change. The South Sudan Livelihoods Resilience Project (SSLRP) will empower rural people to boost productivity, food security and nutrition, and resilience. At a time when the COVID-19 crisis and climate change could further push the 85 per cent of South Sudanese who live in rural areas into deeper poverty, SSLRP will target the most vulnerable, food insecure and small-scale producers, engaged in fishing, cropping and livestock production.

The financing agreement was signed virtually by Gilbert F. Houngbo, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and Athian Ding Athian, Minister for Finance and Planning of the Republic of South Sudan.

In South Sudan, poverty is higher in rural areas, with 80 per cent of the population living below the poverty line and depend on agriculture for their livelihood. Therefore, agriculture is key to defeating poverty and hunger. However, South Sudan, a resource-rich country and the youngest nation in Africa, remains the third most fragile in the world.

Relief Web 24 June 2021

North Africa

Western Sahara

Protesters call for Western Sahara autonomy amid tension between Morocco and Spain

Thousands of people descended on the streets of Madrid capital on Saturday to demand self-determination for Western Sahara.

The demonstration was the culmination of month-long marches to highlight the plight of the native Sahrawi people, thousands of whom have been displaced in refugee camps for decades.

Morocco annexed the area on the northwest coast of Africa, between Algeria and Mauritania, in the 1970s after Spain’s colonial administration ended.

Morocco considers the vast territory part and parcel of the kingdom. It agreed to hold a referendum in conjunction with the UN on the future of the territory in 1988 but this has yet to take place.

Euro News 19 June 2021

Germany freezes over $1bn aid to Morocco over Western Sahara

Germany has announced that it will be freezing aid worth over $1 billion in the form of development projects in Morocco amid growing diplomatic tensions between the two countries culminating with Rabat suspending ties with the German embassy in March and recalling its ambassador to Berlin last month.

However, the decision has affected aid from Germany, in particular from the Germany Society for International Cooperation and the German Development Bank, which was confirmed by a spokesperson for the Germany Foreign Ministry, noting that some projects had been “completely suspended” and that they were “affected by the unilateral policy of Morocco”.

Among the key projects suspended is an agreement signed by the two countries last year for the production and research of green hydrogen, touted as an important alternative to fossil fuels by the EU.

Middle East Monitor 21 June 2021

International Affairs in Brief

Hamas-UN talks over Gaza’s humanitarian situation have ‘failed’

Hamas’s talks with the United Nations over the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip have failed, the group’s leader in the enclave said.

“This was a bad meeting and it was completely negative,” Yahya Sinwar said on Monday.

“The meeting with the UN delegation was thorough and they listened to us. But unfortunately, there are no indications of intentions to solve the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.”

Sinwar made the remarks during a news briefing following the meeting in Gaza City with a senior UN delegation, including the UN special coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Tor Wennesland.

Sinwar also accused Israel of “blackmailing the Palestinian factions, including Hamas” with regards to solving the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.

Aljazeera 22 June 2021

Muntada Aid supports UNRWA emergency appeal for Palestine refugees in Gaza

Muntada Aid, a United Kingdom based non-profit organization has pledged support to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) emergency assistance programme in Gaza. This contribution will provide food assistance to Palestine refugees across the besieged Gaza Strip, now facing fourteen years of a land, air and naval blockade.

In response to the 11-day escalation in violence, beginning on 10 May 2021, UNRWA launched a 30-day Flash Appeal urgently seeking US$ 38 million to respond to the immediate food, non-food, health, psychosocial, sanitation and emergency response needs of Palestine refugees. The Agency will continue to adapt its services to their evolving needs.

The impact of the continued blockade, combined with the economic fallout caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has fueled unprecedented levels of unemployment in Gaza, reported at 49 per cent in 2020. Home to some 1.2 million Palestine refugees who count on UNRWA food assistance, some 68.5 per cent of the population has been deemed food insecure, with 47 per cent deemed severely food insecure. In 2020, some 79 per cent of Gazan households resorted to borrowing money or using credit to buy food.

Relief Web 23 June 2021

Myanmar

Myanmar’s Suu Kyi Back in Junta Court on Sedition Charges

Deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi appeared in a junta court again Tuesday on trial for sedition and for flouting Covid restrictions during an election her ousted party won in a landslide.

A mass uprising in Myanmar against a February military putsch has been met with a brutal crackdown that has killed more than 870 civilians, according to a local monitoring group.

Under house arrest and invisible bar, a handful of court appearances, Suu Kyi has been hit with an eclectic raft of charges, including accepting illegal payments of gold and violating a colonial-era secrecy law.

On Tuesday, the court heard testimony she violated Covid-19 restrictions during elections last year that her National League for Democracy (NLD) party won in a landslide, her lawyer The Maung Maung told reporters.

EWN 23 June 2021

China bolsters ties with Myanmar junta despite international condemnation

Trade and diplomatic ties between Myanmar and China are normalising in the face of intense domestic opposition and international condemnation of the military junta that seized power in February.

Beijing has strengthened relations with Myanmar’s military leaders despite a series of violent attacks against Chinese business interests in the country after Aung San Suu Kyi’s government was toppled.

Yun Sun, an expert on Myanmar-China relations with the Stimson Center, a US think-tank, said Beijing had already made a “fundamental assessment” that Myanmar was moving into another prolonged period of military rule.

“I think the Chinese can see that this military coup is successful and is here to stay,” she added.

Financial Times 23 June 2021