News Briefs 26 October 2018

Democratic Republic of Congo

As DRC rolls toward election, voting machines a flashpoint

A deadly Ebola outbreak grows. Rebels kill civilians in the streets. And yet the arrival of voting machines in this troubled corner of Democratic Republic of Congo has some especially worried as a long-delayed presidential election promises further upheaval.

The machines now arriving by the thousands in this Central African nation are of such concern that the UN Security Council has come calling, the United States has issued warnings and opposition supporters on Friday plan a national protest.

As Congo faces what could be its first peaceful, democratic transfer of power, fears are high that the more than 100 000 voting machines will be ripe for manipulation. They also could pose a technical nightmare in a sprawling nation of more than 40 million voters where infrastructure is dodgy — just 9% of DRC has electricity — and dozens of rebel groups are active.


Mass expulsions from Angola have put thousands of Congolese at risk in Democratic Republic of Congo – Bachelet

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Friday warned that the mass deportation of Congolese nationals from Angola has already resulted in serious human rights violations by security forces on both sides of the border, and left at least 330,000 returnees in an extremely precarious situation.

Since the beginning of October, some 330,000 people have reportedly crossed from Angola, mostly into the Kasai, Kasai Central and Kwango provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo following an expulsion order by the Government of Angola targeting irregular migrants. In interviews with people in the border town of Kamako in Kasai, the UN Human Rights Office received reports indicating that security forces in Angola used excessive force in their operations to deport the Congolese nationals. The team has verified information about six deaths, reportedly at the hands of security forces, but has also received many other allegations of killings that it has not been able to fully verify. Reports also suggest at least 100 people were injured.

Several migrants also alleged that upon their arrival in Kamako, they were subjected to extortion and illegal taxation by the defence and security forces in the DRC. There have been allegations of arbitrary detention of returning migrants. Some of the migrants are being hosted by families or in ad hoc shelters, but many are sleeping in the streets, with inadequate access to health and food, severe water shortages and lack of proper sanitation.

Africa News


Somalia summit talks tech and apps, not guns and bombs

Tech entrepreneurs in Somalia are holding a first ever summit in battle-scarred Mogadishu, attracting hundreds to talk about business and innovation in a city more used to conflict and suffering.

The three-day event that began on Tuesday was conceived by a group of young Somalis to showcase the work of dozens of local companies.

“This is an opportunity to change negative impressions of Somalia, to give an image other than that of war, chaos and starvation,” said Abdihakim Ainte, founder of Mogadishu’s iRise Hub and the event’s main organiser.

“Just like other technology summits in the world, it brings together technology entrepreneurs, students and government to discuss technology and economic development,” he said.


African Union force says key al-Shabab commander killed

A “chief finance controller” for the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab extremist group has been killed after an ambush on a meeting of its fighters in southern Somalia, the African Union peacekeeping mission announced Thursday.

The unnamed commander, the head of tax collection in Lower Shabelle region, was killed on Monday in the town of Bariire, the AU mission said.

The extremist group funds its deadly activities by taxing the communities under its control. It also collects taxes on millions of bags of charcoal that make their way out of the country despite a ban on the exports, according to the latest report by U.N. sanctions monitors.

Another seven al-Shabab fighters were killed on Sunday when their attack on a forward operating base was “botched,” the AU mission said.

National Post

Central African Republic

The President of the Central African Republic commits to increasing access to basic social services

The President of the Central African Republic visited UNAIDS to discuss ongoing efforts to rebuild his country, advance national reconciliation and deliver basic services for the populations after decades of political instability and conflict.

“The government is working with its partners to increase access to basic social services like education, health, and clean water as well as boost our HIV response,” said Faustin-Archange Touadéra, President of the Central African Republic. “Our progress remains fragile, this is why we need the support and engagement of all our partners to advance our recovery.”

UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibé, who visited CAR in early October, thanked the President for his continued commitment towards peace, saying he was encouraged to see pockets of hope. “In your reconstruction efforts, health is a powerful tool to improve social justice and stability,” said Mr Sidibé. “I commend the President for his personal engagement to ensure protection and dignity for all, including women and girls who are vulnerable to sexual violence and abuse.”


Russia To Send More Military Trainers, Equipment to Central African Republic

Russia said on Friday it planned to send additional military equipment to Central African Republic (CAR) and deploy 60 more instructors to train the country’s armed forces, escalating its most significant military foray in Africa in decades.

Russia donated hundreds of weapons and sent 175 trainers to CAR earlier this year to bolster the government’s fight against militia groups after receiving an exemption from a United Nations arms embargo.

According to diplomatic and security sources, many of the Russians in CAR are private security contractors and their remit has expanded into mediating negotiations among armed groups, securing mining projects and advising CAR’s president.

Russia’s activities in CAR are part of a wider push to re-establish influence in sub-Saharan Africa that waned after the Cold War. It has signed military cooperation deals with 19 countries since 2015 and expanded diplomatic and trading ties.



Sudan lifts ban on Egyptian imports amid effort to mend ties

Sudan has lifted a ban on agricultural imports from Egypt, the latest sign of mending relations between Cairo and Khartoum.

The announcement by President Omar al-Bashir came during a joint press conference on Thursday with Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi who was on a visit to Khartoum.

Bashir said: “Our main mission is to remove obstacles in the movement of goods and citizens between both countries.”

Sisi and Bashir have sought to iron out their differences over the past few months.

Egypt-Sudan ties became frayed by a dispute over an Egyptian-held border territory and failures of multiple rounds of talks over Ethiopia’s massive dam under construction on the Blue Nile, which Cairo claims threatens its water supply.


Sudan PM announces ‘strict austerity’ in emergency economic reforms

Sudan’s Prime Minister Moataz Moussa announced to parliament on Wednesday a 15-month emergency economic-reform plan, including “further strict austerity measures”, to begin this month.

Sudan’s economy has been struggling since the south seceded in 2011, taking with it three-quarters of oil output and depriving Khartoum of a crucial source of foreign currency.

The plan aims to “reduce the average inflation, stabilise the exchange rate of the pound, achieve a GDP growth of 4% and to fix the liquidity crises,” Moussa said.

The measures include slashing all tax exemptions except for materials needed for production, withdrawing some vehicles provided to officials, no longer paying for meals served in government meetings and banning use of imported furniture in government offices, Moussa said.


South Sudan

South Sudan peace deal bumpy as rebel leader doesn’t return

South Sudan’s government is spending millions of dollars next week to celebrate a “final final” peace deal to end a five-year civil war. One problem: The rebel leader who agreed to share power is reluctant to come home.

Riek Machar’s hesitation amid security concerns is the latest sign that one of Africa’s deadliest conflicts might be merely on pause.

Worried observers can list several more: Key implementation deadlines have not been met. Cease-fire violations continue amid shocking abuses. And detainees who should have been freed remain behind bars.

“There’s been no indication that the peace deal’s been working,” said Denay J. Chagor, chairman of South Sudan’s United Movement opposition party, who helped negotiate the peace talks.

ABC News

Sudan welcomes Salva Kiir’s efforts to reconcile SPLM-N factions

Sudanese government welcomed an initiative by South Sudan President Salva Kiir to bring together the two factions of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), led by Malik Agar and Abdul Aziz al-Hilu.

A member of the government negotiating delegation, Hussein Karashoom, unveiled to the semi-official Sudanese Media Center (SMC) that the initiative aims to bridge the gaps between the two factions in order to ensure the success of the peace process under the auspices of the African Union mediation led by President Thabo Mbeki, which is expected to resume in November.

“There is a good environment for the resumption of (peace) negotiations on the Two Areas, after the meetings held with the African Union mediation headed by President Thabo Mbeki to break the deadlock in the negotiations,” Karshoom said.

He further expected that Kiir would continue to play an important role to narrow the gaps between the government and SPLM-N during the talks in the future.

Sudan Tribune

Western Sahara

UN Secretary-General Guterres Meets Pompeo, Hale on Western Sahara

The US Department of State confirmed on October 23 that Guterres met Pompeo and US Under Secretary for Political Affairs David Hale.

While the agenda does not say what the officials discussed, the meeting followed a closed meeting between Morocco’s Ambassador to the US Lalla Joumala and Hale on Monday, October 22.

A source that asked to speak on condition of anonymity told Morocco World News that Lalla Joumala met with Hale to convince him of Morocco’s position in favor of a one-year extension for the MINURSO mandate. The Security Council will set MINURSO’s mandate at its meeting Monday, October 29.

On Tuesday’s meeting, Guterres may have informed Pompeo and Hale why he believes a one-year extension would be beneficial for the UN-led political process.

The United States reportedly wants the mandate to be renewed for six months only. However, Guterres has called on the Security Council to include a one-year extension for MINURSO in its resolution.

Morocco World News

SA diplomat in Western Sahara for talks on Sahrawi issue

South Africa’s deputy foreign minister met with the prime minister of Western Sahara on Sunday as part of a four-day visit to the long-disputed government seeking independence from Morocco.

The visit by Llewellyn Landers aims to deepen diplomatic relations between South Africa and the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), according to the foreign ministry in Pretoria. It follows on the June visit to South Africa made by SADR President Brahim Ghali, part of a tour that took him to several Southern African nations.

SADR Prime Minister Mohammed Al-Wali Akeik said the meetings focused on Sahrawi independence and the regional and international context.

South Africa has long supported the Sahrawis in their quest for an independent state, and Landers promised that South Africa would use its seat on the United Nations Security Council to press for an agreement. That two-year term begins in 2019, as South Africa joins Côte d’Ivoire and Equatorial Guinea in the 10 non-permanent seats. Ethiopia’s term ends this year in December.

Africa Times


Results of Swaziland Election Not Published One Month After Poll Questioning Kingdom’s Claim to Democracy

The results of the House of Assembly election in Swaziland/Eswatini have still not been published one month after the vote took place.

It is further evidence that the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch is not a democracy.

The election took place on 21 September 2018. The kingdom’s Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) promptly announced the winners at the 59 constituencies (known as tinkhundla) but no break-down giving the number of votes cast for each candidate has been released.

This is not new in Swaziland: the full results of the previous election held in 2013 have never been published.


Swaziland King Says Angels Told Him Whom to Appoint As New Prime Minister, but He Won’t Yet Reveal the Name

King Mswati III, the absolute monarch of Swaziland / Eswatini, told a meeting of the kingdom’s ‘People’s Parliament’ he had been visited by angels whom told him who he should appoint as the kingdom’s new Prime Minister.

In the past the King has said he received messages directly from God.

He told his story at the Ludzidzini Royal Residence on Wednesday (24 October 2018) during a meeting of Sibaya. The Sibaya is where the King summons his 1.1 million subjects to the royal cattle byre to discuss pressing issues.

When he called Sibaya people expected he would reveal who he had chosen to be Prime Minister, following the recent national elections.



Once again hope deferred in Zim

THE hope that was generated by the removal of Robert Mugabe from power in the November coup in Zimbabwe was always provisional and tainted by the persistence of Zanu PF’s legacy.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s hope that the 2018 elections would deliver the legitimacy he so desired was marred by the shortcomings of the electoral process, the post- election violence on August 1, the continued lack of recognition of his victory by the opposition and the critical reports of international observers.

The Government of Zimbabwe’s planned political and financial re-engagement strategies, much-touted in the presidential narrative since the November coup, continue to face the hurdles of deeper economic and political reform that have been the precondition for such re-engagement.

The Independent

Zimbabwe opposition calls for ‘dialogue’ to fix crisis

Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader Nelson Chamisa called Tuesday for a transitional emergency government to resolve the worsening economic and political crisis engulfing the country.

A foreign currency shortage in recent weeks has sparked the worst economic crisis with supplies of fuel, food and pharmaceuticals drying up.


“The first thing is for this nation to go on a path of a political dialogue,” said Chamisa, 40, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, who claims to have won the July 30 presidential election.

“We need a national transitional authority so that we resolve this crisis,” he told a news conference in the capital Harare.




Africa in General

Ethiopia appoints Sahle-Work Zewde as first female president

Ethiopia’s parliament has approved senior diplomat Sahle-Work Zewde as the country’s first female president, proceedings on state television showed, cementing another shift in the country’s political system from Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

Sahle-Work is at present UN under-secretary general and special representative of the secretary general to the African Union. She replaces Mulatu Teshome Wirtu, who tendered his resignation to parliament earlier on Wednesday.

The president’s post is a ceremonial one in Ethiopia. The prime minister, who is the head of state, holds executive power.

“In a historic move, the two Houses has elected Ambassador Shalework Zewde as the next President of #Ethiopia. She is the first female head of state in modern Ethiopia,” Fitsum Arega, Abiy’s chief of staff, said on Twitter.


DRC hospitals openly jail poor patients

The most surprising thing about the fact that Democratic Republic of Congo hospitals detain patients who fail to pay their bills is that it’s no secret: Administrators, doctors and nurses openly discuss it, and the patients are held in plain sight.

An Associated Press investigation found that only one of more than 20 hospitals and clinics visited in the copper-mining metropolis of Lubumbashi did not routinely imprison patients. Though government officials condemn the illegal practice, and say they stop it when they can, a Ministry of Health official in Kinshasa noted that “health officials cannot be everywhere”.

The only ones who claim they don’t know what’s happening in DRC, it seems, are more than a dozen major health donors and agencies who invest billions of dollars in the country and have major operations there — including the European Union, Unicef, the International Committee of the Red Cross, PATH, Save the Children, the US Agency for International Development and World Vision.


EU urges Cameroon president-elect to unite country

The European Union on Thursday urged Cameroon’s president elect, veteran strongman Paul Biya, to unite his country and overcome its troubles following elections.

The Constitutional Council, dominated by Biya loyalists, said on Monday the 85-year-old leader had won 71.3% of votes in the October 7 poll marred by allegations of widespread fraud, low voter turnout, and violence.

Reacting to the council’s announcement four days later, the EU’s diplomatic arm, the external action service, issued a mild statement that did not mention the fraud allegations.

“The European Union expects the President-elect to bring together all stakeholders to overcome the challenges facing the country, to the benefit of all Cameroonians,” a spokesperson said without mentioning Biya by name.


South Sudan government, rebels abducted hundreds of women and girls – UN

Government and rebel forces in South Sudan abducted hundreds of women and girls this year and many have been raped and forced into sexual slavery, the UN mission to the country said on Tuesday.

Other young people were forced to become child soldiers, according to a report by the U.N. Mission in South Sudan, which said that many of those abducted remain in the hands of their captors.

The abuses were committed during a civil war by forces loyal to the government of President Salva Kiir and rebels fighting for Riek Machar. The abductions violate international law and may amount to war crimes, the report said.

“The girls are sometimes only 12 years old and were chosen as wives for the military. They had to parade in front of them and they (soldiers) could choose whomever they wanted. They used them and of course they were raped and (subjected to) sexual slavery,” the report said.