News Briefs 26 August 2021

Southern Africa Focus

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe arrests after child bride dies giving birth at church shrine

Police in Zimbabwe have arrested a 26-year-old man after a teenage girl died during childbirth, in a case that has sparked outrage among citizens and rights activists. Anna Machaya, 15, is reported to have died and been buried last month at a church shrine in the eastern region of Marange.

Police have also arrested her parents. The case has exposed the exploitation of minors, as she was reportedly forced to abandon school to get married. Anna’s parents are accused of lying about her age and also pledging their nine-year-old daughter to the same man, Hatirarami Momberume.

He faces charges of child rape.

BBC News 19 August 2021

SADC escalates calls for sanctions on Zimbabwe to be removed

The 41st Southern African Development Community (SADC) Ordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government, hosted in Lilongwe, Malawi has once again called for the unconditional removal of sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe.

“The summit reiterated its call (for) the unconditional removal of sanctions imposed on the Republic of Zimbabwe, and supports Zimbabwe in the ongoing socio-economic strengthening efforts,” a communiqué issued by the summit on Wednesday said.

The SADC Heads of State and Government Summit held in Tanzania in August 2019, declared October 25 as the annual day to stand in solidarity with Zimbabwe, a day on which SADC member states collectively voice their “disapproval and condemnation” of sanctions against Zimbabwe through various activities and platforms “until sanctions are lifted”.

IOL 18 August 2021

eSwatini

SADC summit: A new terrorism centre and new executive secretary, but where was Eswatini?

As southern African leaders returned home from Malawi after the Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit, their meeting left observers with more questions than answers about the region.

The 41st Ordinary Summit of SADC Heads of State and Government was held in Lilongwe on 17 and 18 August.

“As we close, I dare say that this summit has been constructive and progressive towards our shared goals of regional integration and economic cooperation,” said Malawi’s President Lazarus Chakwera, who took over from Mozambique as rotational chair of the 16-member body.

Chakwera’s new role was a positive sign for SADC, a region dominated by the legacy of liberation movements, said Liesl Louw-Vaudran, senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies. Chakwera was an opposition candidate who became president after court intervention to uphold the result.

News24 19 August 2021

SADC a toothless talk-show on eSwatini

The SADC, just like the AU and the UN, is a toothless talk-show. The people of eSwatini must embrace Steve Biko’s words of wisdom: “Black man, you are on your own.”

People from this tiny kingdom had risen against their oppressive and horny monarch, King Mswati III, and they have been paying for their quest for freedom in blood. Unfortunately, we don’t think they are going to get any help, any time soon, from the most somnolent of organisations, the SADC.

With the SADC, there will be plenty of talking, plenty of proposals for peace, but the long-term reality is likely to be maintaining the status quo. This means that the spendthrift monarch, backed by his brutal and bloodthirsty security forces, will continue to keep his foot on the necks of the Swazi people.

Sowetan 18 August 2021

Democratic Republic of Congo

DR Congo Army Says It Has Taken Strongholds of Rebel Coalition

DR Congo’s army says it has seized the “last strongholds” of a rebel force after several days of fighting in the troubled eastern province of South Kivu.

The clashes erupted in the province’s highlands on August 12, when the military said it had responded to attacks by a coalition of the Makanika, Twigwaneho and Ngumino armed groups. The groups consist of members of the Banyamulenge community — Congolese Tutsi with distant origins in neighbouring Rwanda.

In Fizi territory, “the army has recovered all the villages formerly occupied by the rebels, including the last strongholds of these armed groups led by the deserter Colonel Michel Rukundo, alias Makanika,” army spokesman Captain Dieudonne Kasereka said Wednesday.

He claimed a “victory of the FARDC” — the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo — and said calm had been restored in the area.

EWN 20 August 2021

DR Congo accepts US military help against ADF militia

President Felix Tshikedi authorises deployment of US counter-terrorism forces in eastern DRC as attacks continue.

DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi has authorised US special forces to help the Congolese army battle the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an armed group linked to ISIL (ISIS).

The ADF, which the United States has deemed a “terrorist” group, is considered the deadliest of dozens of armed militias that roam the mineral-rich eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Aljazeera 16 August 2021

Eastern Africa and the Horn

Somalia

Why Somalia’s grand strategies aren’t working

Somalia’s security challenges are almost always discussed at the macro level. For nearly a decade, the federal government and its international partners have looked at the country’s challenges primarily through the lens of “grand strategies”. From the 2014 Operation Indian Ocean to the 2017 Somali National Defence Strategy, these large-scale holistic frameworks have attempted to change the entire course of the nation through a combination of political, economic and security strategies.

However, they have largely ended up focusing on confronting al-Shabaab militants in a Hollywood-esque good vs. evil battle for territory. The Somali Transition Plan, for instance, considered both security issues and the delivery of public services in charting a way for the African Union forces AMISOM to transfer responsibility to Somali national forces. Yet the conditions for this transition – e.g. the provision of coordinated training, appropriate equipment, logistical and financial resources – have never been met, meaning the focus remains on the more immediate question of fighting Islamist militants.

In worrying echoes of Afghanistan, Somalia’s progress against al-Shabaab this past decade has been highly limited despite billions of dollars of investment and extensive international support. In fact, the militant group is estimated to collect more revenue from the Somali people than the government. It delivers services such as settling legal disputes that people do not trust the state to do. And it successfully spreads its propaganda through the grassroots using innovative communications strategies that keep people in fear.

African Arguments 18 August 2021

Children in Somalia at ‘extremely high risk’ of the impacts of the climate crisis – UNICEF

Young people living in Somalia are among those most at risk of the impacts of climate change, threatening their health, education, and protection, according to a UNICEF report launched today.

The Climate Crisis Is a Child Rights Crisis: Introducing the Children’s Climate Risk Index is the first comprehensive analysis of climate risk from a child’s perspective. It ranks countries based on children’s exposure to climate and environmental shocks, such as cyclones and heatwaves, as well as their vulnerability to those shocks, based on their access to essential services.

The report finds approximately 1 billion children – nearly half the world’s 2.2 billion children – live in one of the 33 countries classified as “extremely high-risk”. The findings reflect the number of children impacted today; figures likely to get worse as the impacts of climate change accelerate.

Africa News 20 August 2021

Central African Republic

Central African Republic President’s rival flees after treason charges

A former presidential candidate and opponent of Central African Republic President slipped out of the country despite a travel ban slapped on him by the authorities.

Abdoul Karim Meckassoua was removed recently as a member of the national assembly after being accused of belonging to a rebel group keen on ousting President Faustin Archange Touadera.

Meckassoua is thought to have fled the capital Bangui on Sunday night, crossing the Oubangi River into the Democratic Republic of Congo and later into Brazzaville, the Republic of Congo’s capital.

He was accused of being a member of the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC), a rebel group Central African authorities say is supported by former President Francois Bozize.

Africa News 18 August 2021

Situation in Central African Republic Remains Fragile – UN

General Daniel Sidiki Troare, the commander of U.N. peacekeeping forces in the Central African Republic, has said that militants in the country continue to challenge authorities and threaten neighbouring countries like Cameroon. Troare who is head of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission (MINUSCA) delegation, described the situation as “fragile”.

Troare said that the fundamental objective of the U.N. peacekeeping mission is to protect civilians, U.N. mission staff and offices, the country’s state institutions and restore definitive peace. He added that further co-operation is needed between U.N. troops and Cameroon’s military, to stop militia advances and bring back order to the country. He added that CAR militants facing reprisals from UN peacekeepers hide on both sides of the Cameroon border.

Cameroon Defence Minister Beti Asomo said that his country will send 800 troops to CAR in September 2021 to counter attacks that occur there. Asomo added that when militants block the road linking Cameroon’s coastal commercial city Douala and Bangui, economic activity declines and thousands of transporters are deprived of their source of livelihood.

All Africa 17 August 2021

Sudan

Sudan PM Visits Juba amid Political Crisis

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok arrived in Juba on Thursday for two days of talks aimed at bolstering peace efforts in South Sudan amid a political crisis within the SPLM/A-IO group led by South Sudan’s First Vice President Riek Machar where his former chief of staff, General Simon Gatwech, recently announced he had ousted Machar as chairman of the party and commander-in-chief of its forces. Deadly fighting ensued from the split.

Officials from Khartoum and Juba are expected to discuss bilateral ties between the two countries and the implementation of the Juba peace deal signed last year between Sudan’s transitional government and several armed groups. 

Sudanese Foreign Affairs Minister Mariam al-Mahdi, who accompanied Hamdok, told reporters at Juba International Airport that the Sudan leadership is concerned about the slow implementation of the South Sudan peace deal.

Voice of America 20 August 2021

Will Sudan Send Bashir to The Hague?

Allowing the International Criminal Court to prosecute a former leader for war crimes could be a pivotal moment in the transition to democracy.

On Aug. 12, Sudan signed a historic agreement with the International Criminal Court to hand over former President Omar al-Bashir. The agreement would also see Sudanese officials give greater assistance to the court as it prosecutes those accused of atrocities during the conflict in the Darfur region. Sudan’s decision to comply with the 2009 international arrest warrant was in line with the principles of justice put forth by the December 2018 revolution, its leaders said.

But truly coming to terms with the legacy of the Darfur conflict may be difficult given that one of the transitional government’s key leaders was instrumental in terrorizing Darfur, as Jérôme Tubiana noted in a 2019 Foreign Policy profile of the former janjaweed militia leader Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagolo, widely known as Hemeti, who now serves as first vice president of Sudan’s Sovereign Council.

Foreign Policy 18 August 2021

South Sudan

Rival South Sudanese factions clash, two sides report dozens of soldiers killed

Forces loyal to Vice President Riek Machar and a splinter group have clashed in South Sudan, but the two sides gave conflicting reports on Saturday – with each claiming to have killed dozens of soldiers from the other side.

The latest clashes, threatening the country’s fragile peace process, occurred in Magenis in the Upper Nile region, between forces loyal to Machar and those backing First Lieutenant General Simon Gatwech Dual.

A spokesman for Machar’s SPLM/A-IO party, Lam Paul Gabriel, said the party’s forces responded “in self-defence” and killed two major generals and over 27 soldiers. He said those fighting on SPLM/A-IO side lost three soldiers during the attack.

The other side denied having suffered heavy losses and having launched an offensive.

Defence Web 10 August 2021

African Union Disappoints on Justice

The African Union Commission’s failure to advance justice for the countless victims of atrocities in South Sudan raises concerns about the regional body’s commitment to accountability, 34 South Sudanese, regional, and international rights organizations said in a letter to the AU Commission released today.

The South Sudanese government, after years of delay, announced on January 29, 2021 that it had approved the establishment of the Hybrid Court for South Sudan, along with truth telling and compensation mechanisms, provided for under the 2018 Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan, which ended the country’s brutal civil war. The AU Commission chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat, welcomed the statement and promised to work with the government to create the court. But six months on, the rights groups said they have found no evidence of any concrete action taken, and the AU has not responded to their June 14 letter.

The people of South Sudan “entrusted the AU to ensure that justice is delivered and contributes to ending the culture of impunity,” the groups said in the letter. “The AU’s apparent inaction raises serious questions about the AU’s credibility not only in atrocity prevention in South Sudan, but across the African continent where many are looking to you for justice.”

Human Rights Watch 5 August 2021

North Africa

Western Sahara

Leader of Western Sahara called for UN intervention

The president of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) called on UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to intervene to stop Moroccan illegalities in his country, according to a statement circulated here on Thursday.

Saharawi President Brahim Ghali described the election slated for next month in Western Sahara by the occupying forces of the Alaouite monarchy as one of these illegalities.

The letter described Morocco’s practices and measures in Western Sahara as mere colonial and illegal activities, which do not influence at all the legal status as a non-autonomous territory, pending decolonization, as under international law.

The president recalled that, for over three decades, the Polisario Front has kept its commitment to a peaceful solution and exercised maximum moderation to keep the ceasefire, despite destabilizing actions by the state that occupies areas of Western Sahara.

Prensa Latina 19 August 2021

Need to Uphold Principle of Intangibility of Borders Inherited At Independence

Minister of Foreign Affairs and National Community Abroad, Ramtane Lamamra, on Thursday stressed the necessity to scrupulously respect the principle of intangibility of boundaries inherited at the time of independence in the settlement of border disputes in Africa, the ministry said in a statement.

The statement by Lamamra was made at a video-link meeting of the African Union Peace and Security Council, devoted to the assessment of the implementation of the AU strategy for integrated border management between the member states.

The head of Algerian diplomacy insisted on the commitment of the African Union and most of the member countries to this principle, established by the founding fathers of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1964, and subsequently consecrated as a constant and authentic principle, in the AU constitution.

All Africa 20 August 2021

International Affairs Focus

More than 1,000 killed in Myanmar since February 1 coup

More than 1,000 civilians have been killed in Myanmar since the February 1 coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), a human rights group that records killings by the country’s security forces.

As of August 18, the association said 1,006 people had been killed since the military seized power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi triggering nationwide protests and a mass civil disobedience movement.

A spokesman for the Myanmar military did not respond to a call from Reuters news agency requesting comment.

Aljazeera 18 August 2021

Junta Faces Difficulties on Myanmar Vaccination Program

Myanmar’s coup leader, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, is aiming for 50% of country’s population to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of this year, but there are difficulties and obstacles on the ground to achieving that goal.

Since July 28, the State Administration Council, which overthrew democratically elected government led by the National League for Democracy, has been administering vaccinations, using the Chinese-made Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines, across the country.

From July to August 8, Beijing sent 4.5 million doses to Myanmar, including 2.5 million donated Sinopharm doses and 2 million Sinovac vaccines purchased by the military. Two million more doses will be arriving this month, as the military purchased a total of 4 million Sinovac doses.

Voice of America 20 August 2021

Palestine

Palestine Welcomes SADC’s Objection to Israel

Palestine has welcomed SADC’s principled position objecting to the decision taken by the African Union Commission to grant Israel observer status to the continental body.

In a communiqué released on Wednesday at the end of the 41st Summit of SADC Heads of State and Government held in Lilongwe, Malawi, the 16-member body “expressed concern and objected to the unilateral decision taken by the African Union Commission to grant Israel the status. In a statement yesterday, the State of Palestine said SADC’s position was in line with international law and the “shared long history of solidarity and struggle against colonialism and oppression between the Palestinian and African peoples”.

“This resolute objection, together with other States’ objections, will serve as a stark reminder that colonial occupation, racism, and endemic violations of international law, which continue to shackle Palestine, must not be rewarded or appeased.

All Africa 20 August 2021