Southern African Country Briefs:
Democratic Republic of Congo
President Felix Tshisekedi has named the head of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) state mining company as the new prime minister, capping a series of political victories over his once-dominant predecessor, Joseph Kabila.
The appointment on Monday of Sama Lukonde Kyenge, the director general of Gecamines and ally of the president, should help Tshisekedi install a more loyal cabinet to push through his agenda.
Former Prime Minister Sylvestre Ilunga Ilunkamba, a close confidant of Kabila, resigned from the post on January 28 following a vote of no confidence in the country’s parliament.
It came amid an intensifying power struggle that saw Tshisekedi announcing in December he wanted to break free of a power-sharing deal with Kabila he had entered in the aftermath of a widely disputed election about two years ago.
Aljazeera 15 February 2021
At least 13 people have been killed in two attacks in the violence-hit eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), according to local officials and a monitor.
A notorious militia called the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) was blamed for the attacks in the Beni area, near the Ugandan border.
Bozi Sindiwako, the chief official for the Rwenzori area in North Kivu province, said on Wednesday the attack by ADF fighters on the village of Kisima the previous night had killed 11 people, according to AFP news agency.
The Kivu Security Tracker (KST), a United States-based monitoring group, confirmed the death toll.
The DRC’s army spokesman also said there was an attack, without giving the number of casualties.
“Clean-up operations continue in the area,” said Antony Mwalushay, accusing the ADF – a Ugandan militia that has been operating in the vast country since the 1990s – of attacking “the defenceless”.
Aljazeera 24 February 2021
At least 300 Zimbabwean political refugees, some of them army deserters, are fighting imminent deportation from Botswana.
They fled to Botswana in 2008 during a violent election season that forced former President Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai into a power-sharing deal facilitated by then SA president Thabo Mbeki.
Twelve years later, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said the refugees were no longer at risk and should register for voluntary repatriation by February 28 or face deportation.
Dukwi Refugee Camp protection officer Olivia Mugambi said due diligence was done and the UN was convinced it was safe to return home. Her conviction was supported by Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Botswana, Henry Mukonoweshuro, who said, “It’s the government’s desire to have Zimbabweans in Zimbabwe.”
TimesLive 24 February 2021
Shingirai Musekiwa and Elton Chibhebhe fled Zimbabwe to come to South Africa because they are gay.
Now based in Langa, the activist couple is fighting for the human rights of Zimbabwean homosexuals and the repeal of section 73 of the Zimbabwean Constitution which criminalises homosexuality.
They’ve dubbed their movement Zimbabwe LGBTQ+ Crusader and say they have had interest from about 200 people.
“We are demanding that the section of the Zimbabwean Constitution that criminalise gay people be abolished. It doesn’t allow us to be who we are and to love one another,” says Chibhebhe.
Musekiwa grew up in Harare and came to South Africa in 2012 after he was disowned by his preacher uncle who raised him, he says. His parents died when he was young.
“Instead of talking to me openly at home my uncle would say horrible things and attack me during his sermons. Fearing that the [Pentecostal] church may attack or report me to the police, I ran away,” says Musekiwa.
Chibhebhe fled Bulawayo in 2017. He says his mother accepted his sexuality but not his father.
“Growing up, I used to think I am the only gay in Zimbabwe. Some of the gay people have confessed that they [only have] wives and children because the environment forced them,” says Chibhebhe.
IOL 26 February 2021
The Competition Tribunal has approved a merger between Shiselweni Forestry Company and Peak Timber and Peak Forest Products (PFP).
The tribunal did, however, stipulate conditions related to the sawn and untreated mining timber, final product mining timber, untreated transmission poles, building and fencing poles, treated building and fencing poles and pulp and saw logs markets.
Shiselweni is a forestry company located in eSwatini. Its plantations include wattle, eucalyptus and pine. It is wholly owned by TWK Investments, a company incorporated in South Africa.
TWK Investments is, in turn, controlled by TWK Agriculture Holdings, which focuses on supplying agricultural and related services.
Engineering News 26 February 2021
Central Africa and the Horn of Africa
The political landscape in Sudan changed dramatically in 2019, thanks to the Sudanese men, women and young people who rose up in massive numbers to demand change. Their movement culminated in an agreement signed on 17 August 2019 to establish a civilian-led transitional government and the launch of a transitional process that provides a unique opportunity to achieve sustainable peace, democracy and prosperity throughout the country.
The United Nations has supported Sudan’s transition in many ways, including through its long-established Country Team and the good-offices work of the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on Sudan. On 3 June 2020, the Security Council established a new presence, the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS). German diplomat Volker Perthes was appointed in January this year as UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for Sudan to lead the new special political mission in the country. We spoke to Special Representative Perthes after his arrival in Khartoum earlier this month.
You recently arrived in Khartoum to lead the newest UN Special Political Mission. What do you see as your first task or area of focus?
Relief Web 24 February 2021
Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has named a new cabinet in keeping with the Juba Agreement. But is this new government a genuine step towards meeting popular demands or simply a smoke screen for keeping the military in power?
On 10 February, Sudan’s new cabinet was sworn in by chairman of the Sovereignty Council General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Prime Minister Hamdok. The announcement of the new government was announced two days prior, with Hamdok naming 20 new ministers.
“This cabinet came as a result of a political consensus over a long period of discussions that took months, and we were all concerned about how to steer the country from the brink of collapse. As you have been observing in our regions, there remains many conflicts and challenges,” Hamdok said in his address.
The African Report 25 February 2021
Ten traditional chiefs from South Sudan’s Central Equatoria state have demanded the state government stop a campaign of illegal land grabs and are threatening the use of force unless officials intervene.
In an open letter dated February 10 and addressed to the state governor, Emmanuel Adil Anthony, the chiefs accused armed individuals, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and militias from Bor and the Bahr el Gahzal of orchestrating the land grabs in the villages of Mogiri, Bilinyang, Garbu, Kubi Timan and Gumbo.
Marino Marcellino, head chief of Tokiman village, said some residents of Bor who were displaced by recent floods in Jonglei state had seized plots in his area and were selling them using fake title deeds.
“Those are all people from Bor. They are the ones grabbing the land. You go to Gumbo market — it is all grabbed,” Marcellino told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus. “The market that was well-demarcated and its land documents distributed has all been grabbed. It’s now all white iron sheets. I have my own land there. I made [built] a foundation, but when I went to check, I found it was grabbed. I told them it’s my place. They told me this is South Sudan and it’s their place.”
Voice of America 26 February 2021
An outbreak of the life-threatening disease, which mainly affects children under five, was first declared last September and has spread to 17 counties in all states in the country, with 39 cases of vaccine-derived polio confirmed.
The campaign began in November and rollout of the second phase started on 16 February. Workers have been going from house to house to inoculate children with the oral polio vaccine, while adhering to COVID-19 protocols.
Stop the outbreak, support routine immunization
WHO and partners are supporting the Ministry of Health with the nationwide initiative in a country where widespread displacement due to ongoing conflict and insecurity, as well as perennial flooding, have led to low rates of immunization, making children more vulnerable to polio.
While vaccine-derived polio is rare, it can occur when the weakened live virus used in the oral polio vaccine passes through populations where immunization rates are low and sanitation is inadequate.
UN News 25 February 2021
Washington is reconsidering former President Donald Trump’s recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara, the chargé d’affaires at the US embassy in Spain has said.
In an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Pais on Saturday, Conrad Tribble said: “We know that this is an important issue for Spain, and it is one of the many issues that are subject to reconsideration.”
“There are discussions with all the actors within the framework of the United Nations” on the subject, he explained, “but we have not taken any decision” pending a reassessment of the issue, because “minister [Secretary of State Antony] Blinken said that he wants to understand the context and the commitments made earlier.”
“What I can confirm is that the current administration seeks to consult with its allies and support multilateral institutions such as the United Nations, and any decision taken in such a case will be taken within this framework. “
Tribble’s statement comes at a time when 25 senators, led by Senator James Einhoff, sent a letter to President Joe Biden asking him to reconsider Trump’s decision regarding the Western Sahara issue.
Middle East Monitor 24 February 2021
Western Sahara is the world’s largest non-autonomous zone, an area with no formal national control. While there have been various countries occupying the region throughout history, the land mass has always been a source of conflict. Since Morocco declared sovereignty of Western Sahara, it sparked a dispute between the government and the Polisario, or Polisario Front, a group backed by Algeria.
The Polisario Front is an independent movement that was established to oppose Moroccan rule when Spain decided to surrender its control of Western Sahara in the early 1970s. Today, the Polisario has built ties to Al Qaeda and is suspected to be involved in a variety of heinous crime rings, including narco-terrorism, kidnapping, and hijacking.
This conflict is leaving tens of thousands of Sahrawi refugees displaced and without adequate food and water, threatening to backtrack Morocco’s economic plans and initiatives for the region.
The African Exponent 23 February 2021