News Briefs 25 September 2021

Southern Africa Focus:

Zimbabwe: Is Mnangagwa using Covid-19 restrictions to consolidate power?

When Constantino Chiwenga, Zimbabwe’s vice-president and health minister, suspended by-elections in October 2020 citing Statutory Instrument (SI) 225A as a means to curb Covid-19, many believed a new date would be set. Instead, the government has remained silent on the matter, with many wondering if this is truly a measure to control the pandemic, or a strategy by the ruling Zanu PF to stop the MDC Alliance from winning back seats it lost after the recall by its breakaway party, the MDC-T.

Relations between Nelson Chamisa – leader of the main opposition party MDC Alliance – and the former leader of the MDC-T (now replaced by Douglas Mwonzora) went sour in February 2018 after the death of Morgan Tsvangirai, following a dispute over the latter’s successor. In the aftermath, the party split into two factions: MDC-T and MDC Alliance.

The Africa Report 21 September 2021

Nearly 60 hostels in Zimbabwe’s oldest and poorest township disconnected over unpaid bills

Fifty-eight hostels in Mbare, Zimbabwe’s oldest and poorest township, have had their power cut off by the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa) for failure to pay the bills.

The Mbare hostels, which have an estimated population of 70,000 people, are overcrowded and severely dilapidated, and have been declared unfit for human habitation by human rights groups.

The hostels belong to Harare City Council, and Zesa bills the council instead of the tenants. Hostel residents owe Zesa ZW$10m (about R410,000) in unpaid bills.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Harare City Council said residents must pay their bills.

“Council is urging residents of the 58 Mbare hostels to organise themselves and pay for their electricity. The residents have not been paying and were recently disconnected,” the council said.

TimesLive 23 September 2021

eSwatini

Democracy delayed in Eswatini

Three months after Eswatini was convulsed by pro-democracy protests and the worst rioting in its history, King Mswati III’s hold on power is as absolute as ever, his defiance of demands for constitutional reform just as resolute.

The protests, which began in June and degenerated into three weeks of frustration-fueled looting and arson across the country, have demonstrated just how entrenched the monarchy is – exposing the vulnerability of the opposition rather than the royal establishment.

The government’s response to the unrest was to send troops into the streets, who together with the police, officially killed 27 people, although rights groups say the count could be closer to 100. There have been few calls for accountability for what Amnesty International described as a “full-frontal assault” on human rights.

Two maverick MPs, Mthandeni Dube and Mduduzi Mabuza, who sparked the youth-led demonstrations demanding limits to monarchical power, were arrested on terrorism charges, and last week had their bail applications turned down by a judge appointed by Mswati.

New Humanitarian 22 September 2021

2 Eswatini Lawmakers Facing Terrorism Charges Over Pro-Democracy Protests

Two Members of Parliament, Bacede Mabuza and Mathandeni Dube of Eswatini, formerly Swaziland, remain behind bars, and another is on the run for their role in what the police call acts of criminality and violations of the law during recent violent pro-democracy protests.

The MPs are charged under the Suppression of Terrorism Act of 2008. They were arrested while on their way to present a resolution to parliament, on behalf of the people, to amend the constitution to allow the people to have a say in the election of their prime minister.

Thulani Maseko, a lawyer for the two jailed members of parliament and another, Mduduzi Simelane, who is on the run, says the judge on Tuesday postponed again a bail hearing for the two jailed MPs after the government had denied them bail.

Voice of America 9 September 2021

Democratic Republic of Congo

DR Congo President asks for materialization of ‘all the promises made to Africa’

The President of Democratic Republic of Congo, Félix-Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo, asked for United Nations Member States to “materialize all the promises made to Africa in compensation for the sacrifices agreed to protect humanity against global warming.”

“There are less than six weeks left before COP26 and nine years before 2030. For Africa, the year 2030 will be marked by a drop in GDP of up to 15 per cent reduction in agricultural yields and a sharp increase in the risk of coastal flooding and in island countries,” Mr. Tshilombo said. 

He noted that, to cope with the negative impacts of climate change, the African continent will need $30 billion a year to adapt. This amount should increase to around $50 billion by 2040.

“Africa does not need charity,” but constructive win-win partnerships to make better use of its collective national wealth and improve the living conditions of its people, he stressed.

UN News 21 September 2021

Establish War Crimes Tribunal for DR Congo – Nobel Laureate

Congolese surgeon Denis Mukwege may be a global hero, famed for reconstructing the damaged organs of women and children sexually violated in the country’s war.

But now the 2018 Nobel laureate is seeking justice for victims after calling for an international tribunal to specifically look into war crimes in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

A long-running conflict has plagued the eastern parts of DRC for more than two decades, with Dr Mukwege saying the players have not been punished.

Four months ago, President Felix Tshisekedi’s administration imposed a ‘state of siege’ and replaced all civilian administrators in the region with military heads following increased attacks from rebels.

AllAfrica 22 September 2021

East Africa and the Horn

Somalia

UNSC urges Somalia’s feuding leaders to settle dispute

The United Nations Security Council has urged Somalia’s feuding government leaders to resolve their disagreements through dialogue and give top priority to holding long-delayed national elections this year.

The 15-member body in a statement on Saturday also called on the federal government and regional states “to ensure that any political differences do not divert from united action against al-Shabab and other militant groups”.

The text approved by all council members followed emergency consultations on Friday on Somalia’s worsening political crisis, which has raised regional and international concerns that elections could be threatened, and the wider region could face further destabilisation.

Aljazeera 18 September 2021

African Union Seeks UN Backing for Somalia Peacekeeping Effort

Most African Union member states are urging the United Nations to help bolster its peacekeeping efforts in Somalia, which is contending with an insurgency being waged by an al-Qaeda affiliate, a call spurred by the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan.

The AU deployed its Amisom peacekeeping force to Somalia in 2007 to fight the insurgents, known as al-Shabab, a task it hoped would be taken over by the Somali security forces. But with al-Shabab continuing to carry out suicide bombings and other attacks despite being the target of frequent U.S. drone strikes, the Somali government has remained heavily dependent on the African forces to keep the militants in check.

Amisom, which has almost 20,000 troops in Somalia, will require new funding to extend its mandate beyond the end of this year. The AU wants its mission to be extended until 2027, and for the UN to provide additional backing, Bankole Adeoye, the continental body’s commissioner for political affairs, peace and security, told reporters on Friday.

Bloomberg 3 September 2021

Central African Republic

Tunisia sends 120 troops for UN mission in Central African Republic CAR

Tunisia sends 120 troops to reinforce United Nations peacekeepers in the Central African Republic (CAR) to reinforce its helicopter unit. The deployment is part of a UN Security Council resolution in March to beef up the MINUSCA force in the CAR by around 3,000 men.

“We are very happy to welcome today the Tunisian contingent of the Tunisian air force, here to strengthen the force’s capacities to better help the Central African people, to protect civilians and to provide the necessary security to this country.” Paulo Maia Pereira, general and MINUSCA’s deputy commander said.

The troops will take part in air rescue operations, medical evacuation and transportation of personalities, according to a statement It is the first time a Tunisian contingent is deployed in the country.

Africa News 22 September 2021

Central African Republic war: No-go zones and Russian meddling

Amid a Russian-backed advance, the growing threat of landmines and improvised explosives in the Central African Republic (CAR) points to a dangerous tactical shift in a new and unfolding guerrilla war.

Earlier this month, a convoy driving across CAR’s volatile north-west struck an explosive device, killing an aid worker from the Danish Refugee Council.

Even in one of the world’s most dangerous countries for aid workers, who routinely face violence and intimidation, the tragic incident stood out – highlighting a growing and unprecedented threat after years of civil war.

These indiscriminate devices, which can kill or cause horrific injuries, are keeping aid and human-rights investigators out of hotspots – and leaving desperate communities without a lifeline.

“Fighting is happening behind closed doors,” said Christine Caldera, from advocacy group the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, adding that it was civilians who were paying the price for the increasing use of explosive devices.

BBC 22 September 2021

Sudan

Foiled coup attempt linked to Bashir regime, instigators ‘brought under control’ – Sudan government

Sudan’s fragile transitional government said it foiled an attempted coup early on Tuesday involving military officers and civilians linked to the ousted regime of long-time president Omar al-Bashir.

Information Minister Hamza Baloul said the coup attempt was thwarted and those behind it “brought under control”.

“We assure the Sudanese people that order has been restored and the leaders of the attempted coup, both military and civilian, have been arrested and are being investigated,” he said in a televised address.

“Authorities are pursuing supporters of the defunct regime who participated in the coup attempt.”

News24 21 September 2021
Sudan military leaders blame coup bid on politicians

Sudanese military leaders have accused civilian politicians of opening the door to a coup attempt by neglecting public welfare while consumed by internal squabbles.

Under an August 2019 power-sharing deal in the wake of the overthrow of longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir, Sudan is ruled by a joint military and civilian body known as the sovereign council that is tasked with overseeing a transition to full civilian rule.

Military authorities said on Monday they had detained 21 officers who had attempted to take power in the early hours of the day.

Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan, reporting from Khartoum, said there were still “no answers as to what those who were behind the coup said during the interrogations”.

Aljazeera 22 September 2021

South Sudan

South Sudanese refugees homeless again after Sudan floods

Heavy rains and flash floods have hit 13 of Sudan’s 18 states, affecting more than 288,000 residents and refugees, according to the United Nations.

In neighbouring South Sudan, the deluge affected and displaced about 426,000 people, exacerbating the swelling humanitarian needs in Sudan, the UN said.

In Sudan, thousands of refugees were relocated to different camps, while others took shelter in villages that were spared, but many are now living on the streets.

“They have become homeless,” said Ibrahim Mohamed, a senior official at Sudan’s refugee commission.

Aljazeera 23 September 2021

South Sudan’s political elite plundering public coffers, says UN

Massive plundering of South Sudan’s public coffers is undermining human rights in the world’s youngest nation and threatening its already fragile peace process, according to a UN report released on Thursday.

Since independence a decade ago, South Sudan has struggled to emerge from five years of civil war and is battling chronic instability, economic chaos, ethnic violence and a hunger crisis.

The UN’s Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan said a “staggering” amount of money and other wealth had been diverted from public coffers and resources – more than $73m since 2018, with almost $39m stolen across a period of less than two months.

It described the figure as only a fraction of the overall amount looted, saying President Salva Kiir had admitted as far back as 2012 that South Sudan’s governing elites had diverted more than $4bn.

Aljazeera 23 September 2021

North Africa

Western Sahara

Algeria closes airspace to all Moroccan planes

Algeria’s presidency has announced the closure of the country’s airspace to all Moroccan planes, according to the presidency, in the latest dispute between the two neighbours at odds mainly over Western Sahara.

The move on Wednesday was announced after a meeting of the High Security Council chaired by President Abdelmadjid Tebboune.

A statement said the immediate shutting down affected “all civilian and military aircraft as well as to those registered in Morocco”.

The decision came “in view of the continued provocations and hostile practices on the Moroccan side”, it added.

Aljazeera 22 September 2021

Ramaphosa: Sa Backs the Rights of Palestine, Western Sahara to Self Determination

President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly. Ramaphosa told the UN that there would be no peace and justice until Palestinians were free from occupation. He also said South Africa stood in solidarity with Cuba and the people of Western Sahara.

EWN 23 September 2021

International Affairs

Palestine

Israel, Egypt leaders meet to de-escalate Gaza tensions

The meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi likely focused on de-escalating tensions between Israel and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza Strip, and could lead to an easing of restrictions on the occupied enclave, analysts say.

The two leaders met for talks on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and bilateral ties in the first official trip by an Israeli leader to Egypt in a decade.

Bennett, head of the far-right Yamina party who took office in June, met the Egyptian president on Monday in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh in the southern Sinai Peninsula.

The talks came after days of low-intensity shelling and rocket fire between Israel and Gaza.

Aljazeera 14 September 2021

Israel accused of negligence as former Palestinian prisoner dies

Former Palestinian prisoner Hussein Masalmah has died, seven months after being released from Israeli custody due to illness related to leukaemia, with Palestinian officials accusing Israeli authorities of “medical negligence” over his case.

Masalmah, 39, died on Thursday in a hospital in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank.

According to Palestinian prisoner groups, Masalmah had complained of severe abdominal pains while being held in Israel’s southern Naqab prison for two months before prison authorities agreed to transfer him to Soroka Hospital in Beer al-Sabaa, where he was diagnosed with an advanced stage of the blood and bone marrow cancer.

The Palestinian Authority’s Commission of Detainees Affairs said in a statement on Thursday that Masalmah had been “martyred” by the Israeli authorities’ “policy of systematic medical negligence” against him.

Aljazeera 23 September 2021

Myanmar

Myanmar junta abducting children of people targeted for arrest, says UN expert

Myanmar’s military junta is systematically abducting the relatives of people it is seeking to arrest, including children as young as 20 weeks old, according the UN special rapporteur for the country.

Tom Andrews told the UN Human Rights Council on Wednesday that conditions in the country had continued to deteriorate and “current efforts by the international community to stop the downward spiral of events in Myanmar are simply not working”.

His speech was followed by the release of a report by the UN Human Rights Office on Thursday, which warned of a “human rights catastrophe” and said abuses perpetrated since the coup may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The Guardian 23 September 2021

Many flee as army ‘torches’ homes in Myanmar’s Sagaing region

An undetermined number of civilians have reportedly been forced to flee their village in the Sagaing Region of Myanmar after security forces allegedly burned down homes and opened fire on residents.

According to The Irrawaddy news website on Thursday – one day after two police officers and their families were killed – government troops burned down a village in the township of Taze, northwest of the city of Mandalay.

A series of images posted on social media showed thick black smoke rising from a tree-lined area, identified by The Irrawaddy as Kyikone Village. There were no immediate reports of casualties from the violence.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the government led by Aung San Suu Kyi’s party was overthrown by the military in February, sparking a nationwide uprising that the army has tried to crush.

Aljazeera 23 September 2021