News Briefs 26 January 2018

Democratic Republic of Congo

Thousands flee to Uganda as DRC violence surges

People fleeing the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo) have reported a surge in arbitrary killings, rapes and abductions by unidentified armed groups.

The violence has pushed more than 10,000 people into neighbouring Uganda since the beginning of December, according to the UN.

Rebecca Salama, a refugee from Congo, told Al Jazeera in Uganda’s Nyakabande refugee transit camp in western Uganda that armed groups kept attacking her village, forcing her to walk into neighbouring Uganda with her husband and five children.


There’s a decades-old law threatening digital freedom in DR Congo

The Democratic Republic of Congo has in recent years emerged as one of the most important nations to watch for digital rights violations in Africa. As the political reality in the central African nation heats up, authorities have resorted to a distinct tactic to keep demonstrations and anti-government rhetoric in check: shutting down the internet and SMS services.

Digital rights activists say a 16-year-old law has been instrumental in cracking down on internet accessibility. Passed in 2002, law No. 013/2002 (in French) governs the telecommunication sector and confers powers on the government to take charge of communication facilities in the interest of national security or public defense. Internet service providers, including Bharti Airtel and Orange Group, have often complied with government orders, fearing their licenses would be terminated if they refused to assent.

With an internet penetration of just 6.2%, the DR Congo has repeatedly cut off internet services to its more than 83 million people, blocked or throttled social media outlets, and surgically targeted services like WhatsApp, Facebook, YouTube, and Skype in order to hamper communication among protesters while allowing businesses like banks to operate. In 2017, the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa estimated the DR Congo was losing $2 million a day due to these shutdowns.



UN Security Council welcomes progress in Somalia

The UN Security Council on Thursday welcomed Somalia’s progress and urged the parties to make 2018 a year of implementation of various reforms.

In a press statement, the Security Council welcomed the political commitment to security sector, economic and political reforms.

The council stressed the importance of making progress on the political settlement in preparation for elections in 2020/2021.

It welcomed the Nov. 5 agreement between the federal government and states on taking forward security and federalism, and urged the federal government to ensure high-level dialogue with states to make progress on key issues, including the constitutional review, elections, fiscal federalism, and power and resource sharing.


Somalia inks new justice, corrections framework

Somalia government and federal member states on Thursday signed a new agreement seeking to streamline the justice and corrections system, critical institutions shattered by over two decades of civil war.

The accord provides a framework within which the federal and state-level governments can support the rebuilding of the country’s justice and corrections system.

“This agreement will enable the systematic building of justice and corrections institutions at state and federal levels and increased provision of basic justice chain services for the Somali people,” said Staffan Tillander, Director of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) Rule of Law and Security Institutions Group.

UNSOM said in a statement that its activities include supporting the country in the next phase of building a justice system that upholds judicial independence and benefits all Somalis and a humane and secure corrections system.


Central African Republic

Fresh violence in Central African Republic sparks ‘unprecedented’ levels of displacement – UN

Surging violence in the Central African Republic (CAR) has put unprecedented numbers of people on the run, the United Nations refugee agency said Tuesday, reporting that hungry, desperate arrivals being registered in neighbouring Chad say their houses have been torched and that armed groups are “killing anyone in their way.”

Overall, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said the violence has pushed displacement to its highest levels since the start of the violence in 2013, moreover, estimates show that almost half the population is now food insecure and some 2.5 million people need humanitarian assistance.

“Data as of the end of December shows that 688,700 people were displaced internally – 60 per cent more than just a year ago,” Adrian Edwards, UNHCR spokesperson told reporters at today’s regular press briefing in Geneva.


Meanwhile, 542,380 CAR refugees are in neighbouring countries, a 12 per cent increase compared to last year.

UN News

Militia leader convicted in Central African Republic

Human rights groups in Central African Republic say a former warlord who fought in the anti-Balaka militia has been sentenced to life in prison, a first for this conflict-wracked country.

The International Federation for Human Rights said on Monday that the conviction of Rodrigue Ngaibona, known as “General Andjilo,” is the first of its kind since communal tensions erupted in 2013. A coalition of human rights group said on Monday it was a “decisive first step.”

The anti-Balaka are an armed group that rose in opposition to the Muslim rebels who had overthrown the government in 2012.



Sudanese opposition forces decline consultations meeting with African mediators

The opposition Sudan Call forces in Khartoum, which is supportive for the African Union efforts for peace and reforms in Sudan, has declined an invitation by the chief mediator for a consultation meeting in Addis Ababa on 4-5 February

They further criticised the silence of the mediation over the arrest of the opposition leaders and even its decision to hold a meeting for the Two Areas only with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) led by Abdel Aziz al-Hilu.

The African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) led by President Thabo Mbeki has called the Sudanese government and the SPLM-N led by Abdel Aziz al-Hilu for a new round of talks but excluded the other SPLM-N faction of Malik Agar saying this time talks are on a ceasefire agreement in the Two Areas pointing that the latter has no forces on the ground.

Sudan Tribune

Sudan’s foreign minister postpones visit to France

Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour has postponed a planned visit to France next week, Sudanese diplomatic source said on Thursday.

“The Sudanese-French talks that were scheduled in Paris were delayed due to Ghandour’s participation in the African summit in Addis Ababa,” a Sudanese official said under the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to the press.

“The visit will take place at a later date to be determined through diplomatic channels,” he said.

The two countries resumed bilateral meetings after several years of strain over rebel presence in France. The visit means to mark the improvement of relations and to discuss bilateral cooperation on areas of interest.

Sudan Tribune

South Sudan

AU Summit chance to salvage South Sudan

My country is the youngest. Its birth was a joyous time. Yet South Sudan has been brought up in a broken home, with our leaders constantly battling for control.

Our East African neighbours always ask us to keep the noise down but, in reality, constantly sneak in through the back door to pilfer what they can for themselves.

Every day of fighting takes us closer to the point of no return. The humanitarian crisis disproportionately affects the most vulnerable in society: Women, children and the elderly. Rape against women and girls is being used as a weapon. The violence is increasingly along ethnic lines.

Daily Nation

US after supporting South Sudan’s leader calls him ‘unfit’

US Ambassador Nikki Haley said on Wednesday the United States is giving up on South Sudan’s president after backing the country’s independence in 2011 and investing over $11bn, calling him “an unfit partner” in the pursuit of peace and urging an arms embargo on the conflict-wracked nation.

She cited President Salva Kiir for almost immediately violating a December 21 cease-fire that took effect three days later, for blocking aid to millions in need despite a promise of “free and unhindered access,” and for last month’s promotion of three generals sanctioned by the UN Security Council in 2015 for leading “the slaughter” of civilians.

In a hard-hitting speech to the council, Haley called the generals’ promotion “a slap in the face” of the council, of nations that supported the Kiir government, and “of basic decency.”


Western Sahara

UN’s Western Sahara envoy to hold talks in Berlin

The UN envoy on Western Sahara talks between Morocco and the Polisario Front has invited the parties and neighboring countries to Berlin for bilateral talks, a UN spokesperson said Tuesday.

Former German president Horst Koehler has invited the foreign ministers of Morocco, Algeria and Mauritania, as well as Polisario Front Secretary-General Brahim Ghali, Koehler’s spokesman said.

No date was given in the statement beyond mention of “this January and February.”

Koehler was appointed in August as special envoy to lead a new UN push for talks between Morocco and the Algerian-backed Polisario Front on Western Sahara.

Morocco and the Polisario fought for control of Western Sahara from 1974 to 1991, with Rabat taking over the desert territory before a UN-brokered ceasefire in the former Spanish colony.

The Citizen

UN Envoy extends Western Sahara invite to warring parties for talks

The UN Secretary General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara has invited the relevant “parties to the conflict” to “separate talks” in Germany, according to reports in Morocco. Horst Kohler initiated the invitation to Morocco, the Polisario front and Mauritania following a ten-day tour of Europe and Africa. Kohler held talks with EU officials in Brussels and AU officials in Addis Ababa to discuss the Western Sahara issue.

The UN opened negotiations between Morocco and the Polisario Front in 2007. A number of sessions have followed since, but little progress has been made. The last of these negotiations took place in New York in 2012; again, there was no positive outcome.

Under Morocco’s autonomy plan, the Sahrawis will have exclusivity in managing local affairs but will only be able to function under Morocco’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The plan has been rejected by the Polisario Front and its backer Algeria, which supports full autonomy for Western Sahara independent of Morocco.

Middle East Monitor


Exiled Swazi editor speaks out

In mid-December, Zweli Martin Dlamini received a tip-off. As a professional private investigator and editor of the independent business newspaper Swaziland Shopping, he receives plenty of them — usually about politicians taking bribes, shady tender deals or the hidden hand of the monarchy in Swazi affairs.

But this tip-off was a little closer to home. According to his anonymous informant, Dlamini was about to be arrested. His reporting had upset the powers that be and they were coming for him.

He panicked. He left his home and drove from Mbabane to Manzini, Swaziland’s second city, where his face wasn’t quite so recognisable. He spent the night in his car but he was too worried to sleep much.

“It was painful. When you sleep in a car for doing your job, it tells you something. I received first-hand experience of how we journalists are treated in Swaziland.”

In the morning, when the border post opened, he crossed into South Africa. To safety. To exile.

“It’s not safe for me to go home. I can’t just go back without knowing what will happen to me.”

Mail& Guardian

Swaziland’s King Mswati III to miss AU summit, represented by PM

Swaziland’s King Mswati III will miss the 30th Ordinary Session of the African Union General Assembly taking place in Ethiopia at the weekend as he is still observing the Incwala traditional rites that keep him out of the public spotlight for three months.King Mswati is not yet ready to participate in public events, both nationally and internationally, because he is observing the Incwala traditional rites.

The Incwala ceremony requires him to be out of the public eye between November and February.

His first appearance will be in three weeks’ time when he is expected to officially open the 5th session of the 10th Parliament of Swaziland.

He will be represented by Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini at the AU meeting that kicks off in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on January 28. Dlamini left Mbabane for Ethiopia on Thursday night.

Journal du Cameroun


MDC-T Dismisses Mnangagwa’s Remarks on Holding Free, Fair Election in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change led by Morgan Tsvangirai has dismissed President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s remarks that the country will hold free and fair elections this year, saying the current electoral environment is not conducive for transparency.

In a statement, the MDC-T said, “Whilst the Mnangagwa administration has been persistently stating that this year’s elections will be free and fair, the situation that obtains on the ground points to a totally different scenario. For instance, in virtually all the country’s rural areas, people have been forced to surrender the serial numbers of their biometric voter registration slips to their local village heads and Zanu PF officials.

“This has been a systematic campaign of psychological and emotional terror meant to instil fear in the rural electorate so that they are compelled to vote for Zanu PF in the forthcoming elections. This psychological terror campaign has now reached the cities because in certain parts of Highfield and Hopley in the capital city, Harare, Zanu PF officials have embarked on a door to door campaign forcing people to surrender serial numbers of their voter registration slips. Needless to state, this reprehensible and unlawful practice can never be consistent with a desire to conduct a free and fair election.”

Voice of America

Zim VP Chiwenga ’causes a stir’ in parliament as he ‘threatens’ opposition leader

Zimbabwean Vice President Constantino Chiwenga reportedly left lawmakers from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) outraged when he told the party’s vice president Nelson Chamisa during a parliamentary session that the country would have been better off if he had not gone to the US and other places “campaigning for sanctions”.

According to New, the problem started after Chamisa asked about pensions for war veterans.

Chamisa reportedly said that all the countries in the world, except Zimbabwe, took care of their war veterans. He said that the Zimbabwean government seemed reluctant to “restore the legacy” of war veterans.

Chamisa said this was not inspiring for a government that had been in power for more than three decades and yet failed to acknowledge the importance of the country’s freedom fighters.




Africa in General

Kenya vows to deepen economic ties with Sudan

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said Thursday his government will deepen economic cooperation with Sudan, including boosting production of lower-cost sugar and expanding Nairobi’s tea exports to the Arab nation.

Kenyatta who spoke when he met Kamal Ismael, special envoy of Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir in Nairobi, recalled that during meetings with the Sudanese leader, they had agreed to collaborate more on sugar production, with Kenya learning from the technologies that have made Sudan one of the lowest-cost producers in the world.

According to a statement issued after the meeting, Kenyatta said he wanted to see an agreement for Kenya to learn from Sudan on expanded cotton farming come to fruition, because it was at the base of a plan to increase textiles and apparels manufacturing under the President’s Big Four agenda of manufacturing, affordable housing, universal healthcare and food security.


African Davos delegates plan Trump speech boycott

African delegates are planning to boycott United States President Donald Trump’s closing speech at the World Economic Forum’s flagship annual meeting in Davos on Friday. This follows leaks that he called African countries “shitholes” in a White House meeting on immigration this month.

Trump arrives in Davos on Thursday where he will concentrate on boosting trade and business links between the US and other countries as part of his “America First” agenda, according to members of his cabinet who briefed the press. Trump will also meet Swiss President Alain Berset in Davos.

But he may not receive as warm a reception as he would like from other quarters.

Business Leadership Africa CEO Bonang Mohale, a Davos attendee, penned an open letterexternal link before the WEF meeting, urging people to turn their backs on Trump when he arrives at WEF.

Swiss Info

Africa braces for high-stakes Davos meet

Donald Trump will be the star at Davos. Love or hate him, he’s likely to be the only head of state whose speech will be broadcast live on all the news channels.

Reporters will grill the president on immigration and his alleged “shitholes” slur (he denies saying it), as well as whatever else he tweets between now and the start of the summit on Tuesday.

But for Africans, there are more interesting stories that will play out at this year’s World Economic Forum, with more at stake for the continent than at any time since 1992 when Mandela, de Klerk and Buthelezi shared the stage and laid a blueprint for the change that followed.

Davos will be the first outing for Emmerson Mnangagwa since he replaced Robert Mugabe in November.

The US, EU, Australia and a raft of other countries still have limits on trade with Harare, from weapons to state contracts. But magic can happen, like Barack Obama’s handshake with Raul Castro in 2013 at the funeral of Nelson Mandela. Eighteen months later, the US reopened its embassy in Cuba after a break of 44 years.

Mail& Guardian