News Briefs 26 March 2021:

Southern Africa:


Zimbabwe moves into second phase of vaccination programme

Zimbabwe has moved into the second phase of its COVID-19 vaccination programme.

It’s now targeting the elderly people with chronic conditions, and essential workers like the police, army and prison employees.

The country recently received Sinopharm and Sinovac jabs from China.

The government aims to vaccinate 10-million people.

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa also received his Sinovac vaccine.

The country now has over 36,000 coronavirus infections and more than 1,500 deaths.

eNCA 25 March 2021

Recall of MDC Alliance MPs in Zim is a ploy to ‘subvert the will of voters’ – US

The US is “closely” following events in Zimbabwe after parliament, since last year, expelled 39 legislators who went in through an MDC Alliance ticket.

The latest recall of MDC Alliance deputy president Tendai Biti and six other legislators saw US department of state spokesperson Ned Price issue a statement on Tuesday saying the recalls were calculated to” subvert the will of voters, further undermine democracy, and deny millions of Zimbabwean citizens their chosen representation”.

The MDC Alliance, a coalition of parties led by Nelson Chamisa, 43, narrowly and controversially lost to Zanu-PF led by Emmerson Mnangagwa, 78, in the July 2018 polls.

Since then Chamisa has refused to recognise Mnangagwa as the legitimate leader of the nation. This set the stage for Zanu-PF to dismantle the opposition through underhand sponsorship of the recalls.

TimesLive 23 March 2021

Democratic Republic of Congo

UN says scale of violence in DR Congo ‘alarming’

The United Nations Human Rights chief on Monday warned of worsening violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, with reports of nearly 3,000 civilians killed last year.

UN High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet told the Human Rights Council in Geneva that “at least” 2,945 civilians had been killed in the conflict, with figures including “553 women and 286 children”

The deaths indicate a rise in human rights violations of 21 percent when compared to 2019, according to the figures published by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The report into violations in the DRC is the latest of five that have been produced over the last 12 months by the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office.

Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) Bintou Keita commented on the report on Monday, saying that the armed conflict in the DRC was causing a “worrying deterioration of the security, humanitarian and human rights situation” in the region, with particular reference to “the provinces of Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu”.

Africa News 23 March 2021

Alleged arms dealer Alexander Zingman arrested in DRC

Businessman with links to Belarus strongman Alexander Lukashenko was arrested by Congolese police in Lubumbashi on Wednesday after meeting with former president Joseph Kabila.

Mystery and international intrigue surround the arrest in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) of Alexander Zingman, a businessman and alleged arms dealer with close links to Belarus strongman Alexander Lukashenko.

Zingman was arrested by Congolese police in Lubumbashi on Wednesday after meeting with former president Joseph Kabila. Zingman has previously been mentioned in media reports in connection with arms deals in Zambia and Zimbabwe – which he has denied.

A source close to the administration of DRC President Felix Tshisekedi confirmed Zingman’s arrest. He said that after meeting Kabila, Zingman flew from Kinshasa to Lubumbashi, where he was questioned by police about his business in the DRC. The source said he could not explain what he was doing in the DRC.

Daily Maverick 23 March 2021

Central and the Horn of Africa

Central Africa Republic

New approach to peace needed in the Central African Republic

Armed groups control most of CAR and show no respect for the rule of law or the peace agreement.

Sixty years after gaining independence, the Central African Republic is still struggling to consolidate as a state. Despite many attempts to stabilise it, the country remains trapped in the vicious cycle of violence that began in late 2012. Violent rejection of the December 2020 election results threatens the 2019 Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation. A new approach is needed to break the cycle of violence and instability.

Key findings

Although some progress has been made towards peace since 2013, the security situation in the CAR remains precarious, as evidenced by recent attacks by armed groups.

Key provisions of the 2019 Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation have not been implemented and the agreement is not tenable under current circumstances.

The many violations by armed groups since the signing of the agreement are evidence of their lack of commitment to its provisions, and don’t bode well for a return to peace and stability.

Armed groups still control the vast majority of the territory, collecting taxes in areas under their control. The balance of military power has largely been in favour of these groups, which have shown no respect for the rule of law.

Instability is also fuelled by regional and international factors. While the presence of international peacekeepers, humanitarian workers and NGOs has helped, it has also had adverse effects and caused some resentment among the locals. UN presence has, at times, drawn the ire of certain sections of the population who feel it has lasted too long and has not improved the situation fundamentally.

A new approach is needed if the CAR is to attain peace and stability, while rebuilding an autonomous state and society, as well as a sound economy.

Relief Web 25 March 2021

Central African Republic braces for tense elections amid conflict

Central African Republic will vote in a second round of parliamentary elections on Sunday under high security after a surge in rebel violence surrounding December’s polls.

Insurgents laid siege to the capital Bangui in January, strangling food supply routes, forcing more than 200,000 from their homes, and raising concerns that the country was slipping back into the kind of sectarian conflict that has killed thousands over the past decade.

President Faustin Archange Touadéra won re-election but rebels, who the United Nations say are backed by former president François Bozizé, sought to take control amid allegations of voting irregularities.

Sunday’s polls concern legislative elections, including run-off votes in 49 electoral districts and first round voting in 69 districts where violence stopped the vote from taking place in December.

TimesLive 12 March 2021


Somalia Warns Envoys Against Interference in Political Affairs

The federal government of Somalia has called on diplomats in the country not to interfere in the country’s internal political affairs.

The notice by Information Minister Osman Dube came after representatives of various entities, including the United States, the European Union and the U.N. office in Somalia, said they would not support a possible partial term extension for Somalia’s current president.

Dubbe said his government expected its international partners to respect Somalia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within the principles of international law. He added that it’s illegal to intervene in a sovereign state’s internal issues, calling it a red line that must never be crossed.

Voice of America 25 March 2021

Somalia’s disputed polls is an important lesson in its democratic journey

On 8 February this year, there were many people who worried that Somalia would descend into chaos.

There were fears of street fights, bullets whizzing uncontrollably and, even a (false) prediction for a military mutiny. None of these happened on this exact day. The heightened fears were based on the experiences of Somalia of the past. The new Somalia is different. Still troubled, but different. It has been bravely fighting terrorism with its international partners and achieved debt relief early last year after a rigorous economic reform programme guided by the International Monetary Fund.

Delayed elections

Somalia’s elections are late. This is a fact. These elections are not even the universal suffrage consecutive presidents, including the current one Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, had promised. Nor are they the ones the the Somali people hoped for to finally escape the elite clan selection of their so-called representatives.

The African Report 22 March 2021


The Sudanese Military’s Interests in Civilian Rule

Military governments have led Sudan for all but ten years since independence in 1956. Widespread popular protests in 2019 brought an abrupt end to former president Omar al-Bashir’s thirty years of repressive rule and raised hopes for a new trajectory, but a fragile, civilian-military transitional government formed in August 2019 does not constitute a clean break with the past. The military leads the Sovereign Council while a civilian prime minister runs the day-to-day operations of government, with a mandate to transition to a fully civilian-led, democratic government by January 2024. As an interim step, a civilian is to lead the Sovereign Council in February 2022.

Questions remain over how committed military leaders are to the transition. The military has become accustomed to playing a dominant role in the government and economy. The security services are estimated to control over 250 companies in a range of sectors, including gold mining, livestock, arms, telecommunications, banking, and construction. In Egypt, Mali, Myanmar, and Thailand, the military has shown a reflexive impulse to maintain control, but there are six reasons why a transition to full civilian rule is in the interest of the Sudanese military.

African Center for Strategic Studies 23 March 2021

As Clashes in Darfur Drop, Sudan Peace Process Enters ‘Significant New Stage’, Committee Chair Tells Security Council

The first months of 2021 have seen the peace process in Sudan reach a “significant new stage”, with notable reductions in clashes between Government forces and rebel factions in Darfur, the head of that country’s sanctions committee told the Security Council in a videoconference meeting today.

Sven Jürgenson (Estonia), briefing the 15-member organ in his capacity as Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1591 (2005) concerning the Sudan, said that, while the reporting period — 11 December 2020 to 24 March 2021 — was characterized by a marked drop in violence, fighting between splinter rebel factions continued in some areas. The final report of the Panel of Experts on the Sudan and the Committee’s annual report for 2020, which were both issued during the reporting period, also reveal progress towards implementing the Juba Peace Agreement, signed by the Government and a growing list of non-State groups.

Noting that the Panel of Experts submitted its report to the Committee in December 2020, he said the latter discussed its contents and recommendations and considered follow-up action. Committee members issued a press release on 25 February, urging the Juba Peace Agreement signatory movements to stop recruiting fighters, including in internally displaced persons camps. They also urged the major non-signatory groups to engage in peace talks with the Government as soon as possible. Those recommendations were reiterated in a letter from the Committee, addressed to the Permanent Representative of Sudan to the United Nations.

Relief Web 25 March 2021

South Sudan

South Sudan Government Threatens Rights Activists Living Abroad, Report Says

A new report says South Sudanese journalists, rights activists and opposition members living outside the country are still at risk of being harassed and even killed by South Sudanese authorities, most notably by the National Security Service (NSS) intelligence agency.

The 43-page report, “No Refuge: South Sudan’s Targeting of Refugee Human Rights Defenders,” was compiled by Ireland-based rights group Front Line Defenders and contains testimonies from 14 South Sudanese human rights defenders living in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

Adam Shapiro is the Frontline Defenders head of communications. He told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus that when human rights defenders leave South Sudan to seek refuge, there is no guarantee of safety for them.

“The picture painted by the research leaves no doubt. South Sudan’s NSS is able, and more than willing, to try to silence civil society even when human rights defenders leave South Sudan. The agency is responsible for the creation of a climate of fear and distrust among refugee human rights defenders in neighboring countries,” Shapiro said.

Voice of America 25 March 2021

UN Rights Body Renews Robust Scrutiny over South Sudan

Yesterday, the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) renewed the mandate of the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan.

Given the country’s ongoing rights crisis and widespread impunity for serious international crimes, the renewal shouldn’t have been in doubt. And yet until the votes were tallied, it wasn’t a given.

The resolution for renewal preserved the Commission’s robust investigatory mandate that lays the groundwork for future criminal accountability through the collection and preservation of evidence and determining responsibility for the crimes. It also retained the Commission’s mandate on technical assistance and capacity-building, including to law enforcement institutions, and on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

But Cameroon presented an alternative resolution on behalf of the African group proposing to completely dismantle the Commission’s evidence collection and preservation mandate and replace it with a weaker technical and capacity building role by the Office of the High Commissioner. Had it passed, the resolution would not only have been a blow to the many victims, but would have emboldened a government that has allowed violations and impunity to persist.

Human Rights Watch 25 March 2021

North Africa

Increasing restrictions by Morocco against activists of Western Sahara

Human rights violations in Western Sahara, which is occupied by the Kingdom of Morocco, targetting Saharawi separatist journalists, civilians, and separatist activists have intensified after an escalation in November ended three decades of relative peace in the region.

On February 13, activist Sultana Sayed Ibrahim Khaya was subjected to physical violence and beating by the Moroccan authorities in Boujdour, a disputed area between the Kingdom of Morocco and the Polisario Front, the Algeria-based movement for the independence of Western Sahara.

Sultana Khaya, who is the president of the Saharawi League for the Defense of Human Rights and Protection of Natural Resources, and a member of the Saharawi Commission against the Moroccan Occupation, was injured in the face and the eye after she was pelted with stones by the Moroccan security forces.

Global Voices 24 March 2021

Why the Fight Over Western Sahara Is Heating Up Again

Tensions are rising in Western Sahara, a large strip of desert stretching along the Atlantic coast north of Mauritania. Formerly a Spanish colony, the area has been claimed for the past half-century by both Morocco and the independence-seeking Polisario Front, which each control part of it for now. In November, the Polisario ditched a 30-year cease-fire with Morocco and has since claimed daily attacks on Moroccan military personnel.

Bloomberg 17 March 2021

International Affairs Brief


‘More than 300 people killed’ since Myanmar’s coup

Myanmar’s security forces have killed more than 300 people in attempts to crush opposition to a February 1 coup, with nearly 90% of victims shot dead and a quarter of them shot in the head, according to data from an advocacy group and local media.

A junta spokesperson said 164 protesters and nine members of the security forces had been killed as of Tuesday. Reuters could not independently verify all the accounts.

The killings have drawn outrage and prompted some sanctions from Western countries, including the US. The use of lethal force against civilians had also been condemned by some Southeast Asian neighbours, which tend to be restrained in their criticism.

“Crimes against humanity are committed daily,” said the non-profit Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) group, which has been recording the deaths as well as nearly 3,000 people arrested, charged or sentenced since the coup.

TimesLive 26 March 2021

Myanmar Junta Defends Crackdown, Vows to Stop ‘Anarchy’

Myanmar’s junta on Tuesday defended its seven-week crackdown that has left more than 260 democracy protesters dead, insisting it would not tolerate “anarchy”.

The junta has unleashed deadly violence as it struggles to quell nationwide protests against the 1 February ousting of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

In a news conference in the capital Naypyidaw, junta spokesperson Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun put the death toll lower at 164.

“I am sad because these violent terrorist people who died are our nationals,” he said.

The streets of towns and cities across the country have seen chaotic scenes for weeks as security forces clash with protesters demanding the restoration of democracy and the release of Suu Kyi.

EWN 22 March 2021


Palestine hails China’s plan to host talks with Israel

Palestine on Wednesday welcomed China’s proposal to host talks between Palestinian and Israeli leaders in Beijing.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Wasel Abu Yousef, member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, hailed China’s official position on the Palestinian issue.

He lauded Beijing for supporting the establishment of a Palestinian state on lands occupied by Israel since 1967 with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Yousef, however, stressed that the Palestinian leadership’s priority is “to hold an international conference for peace based on international legitimacy and resolutions.”

His remarks came after China’s State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya TV earlier on Wednesday that the Chinese government plans to invite Israelis and Palestinians for talks in Beijing.

Anadolu Agency 24 March 2021

The ICC Has Stepped on a Political Minefield in Palestine

The rapidly-evolving geopolitical equation in the Middle East just got another layer of complexity added to it. Earlier this month, Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), announced the launch of an investigation into alleged war crimes committed in the occupied Palestinian Territories since 2014. The prosecutor’s decision, important no less from an international accountability perspective, may end up putting the ICC in the crosshairs of regional politics.

The ICC, which tries individuals rather than countries, is the world’s first-ever permanent court with jurisdiction over war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and the crime of aggression. The court’s decision has come in the wake of important developments in the Middle East. These include the US potentially rejoining the Iran nuclear deal; the much-vaunted Abraham Accords signed by Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in 2020; the Saudi-led war in Yemen that continues with no end in sight; and Iran’s engagement in proxy warfare in the region. The ICC’s intervention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — one of the most complex international disputes — has added a new ingredient to an already simmering stew.

Fair Observer 24 March 2021