Southern Africa Focus
With 14 months to go before Zimbabweans elect a president, members of parliament and local government representatives, the country is in full election mode. The ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) has ramped up its campaign while a new opposition party has sparked hope of a meaningful democratic contest. But the political and electoral playing field remains deeply uneven and stacked in favour of the ruling party.
Zanu-PF’s campaign is a mix of state events and party activities, with the national broadcaster doing the party’s bidding. Meanwhile, Nelson Chamisa’s political opposition, Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) — which put up a spirited performance during the recent by-elections — is trying to establish itself while simultaneously preparing for the 2023 polls.
The CCC, unveiled on 22 January, was greeted with excitement, and the new political outfit was emboldened by its performance in the March by-elections. Yet nuanced analysis of the political terrain after the by-elections shows that Zanu-PF’s position as the ruling party is safe so far.
Daily Maverick 23 May 2022
At the time of its independence, optimism abounded about Zimbabwe’s potential to become a model African state that would leverage its abundance of natural resources towards the creation of a truly inclusive society. Sadly, this potential was squandered by weak and often predatory governance, leaving society with few prospects to prosperity.
At present, Zimbabwe’s youth face an entirely different future to the one promised at independence and again after the “new dispensation” in 2017.
Today, the country remains in a fragile state, characterised by chronic poverty, high levels of formal unemployment that has resulted in an overreliance on the informal economy, a virtually bankrupt state and endemic corruption. Declining state capacity not only translated into weakened relations between the state and society, but also fuelled growing competition for resources that has eventually yielded greater polarisation within society.
Mail& Guardian 24 May 2022
The situation in eSwatini appears to differ based on who you speak to. Some say the protests will continue and not cease until King Mswati has been removed from power, while others believe calls for him to step aside are dying down in anticipation of a forthcoming national dialogue.
People’s United Democratic Movement secretary-general Wandile Dluldlu said emaSwati continued to call for democracy in the kingdom despite the authorities’ failure to listen to them.
“People want change, but Mswati doesn’t want to listen. We will continue with the protests until he does,” Dludlu said.
He refuted claims that the protests were funded by outsiders with vested interests in the country’s resources.
“There have always been those lies. If some want to support our calls, that is great. But this is a Swati struggle and it is not cooked somewhere,” he said.
IOL 22 May 2022
The Communist Party of Swaziland (CPS) called on “consistent mobilisation of the youth for total democracy”, against the backdrop of the assault of a student union leader by the military and police on Tuesday.
In a statement, the CPS said: “The youth must not be hoodwinked into participating in the backward Tinkhundla elections. These elections, no matter how many so-called ‘radicals’ partake, are meant to legitimise the ruling absolute monarchy and deepen the autocracy.”
Tinkhundla is an electoral system that serves as a form of governance, based on traditional, administrative subdivisions.
Eswatini has 55 Tinkhundlas in the country’s four districts. There are 14 in Hhohho District, 11 in Lubombo District, 16 in Manzini District, and 14 in Shishelweni District.
News24 18 May 2022
Democratic Republic of Congo
Fighters from the M23 rebel group advanced in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Wednesday and were locked in heavy fighting with the army outside the region’s largest military base, security sources and the local park director said.
After several days of fighting between the rebels and Congo’s army near the border with Rwanda, M23 fighters attacked the base in the town of Rumangabo, the sources said.
Two security sources, who asked not to be named, said the rebels had surrounded the base by the evening. Reuters could not immediately confirm this independently.
The director of the Virunga National Park, Emmanuel de Merode, who is based in Rumangabo, said there had been intense fighting but that he did not have further details.
Reuters 26 May 2022
DR Congo’s presidential election is over a year away, but political tensions are escalating in the vast and volatile country as candidates line up and fears grow the vote will be fraudulent.
Elections in the central African nation frequently turn violent, with dozens of protesters killed. They are also often criticised by observers.
But the last presidential election in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in 2018, heralded the first peaceful transfer of power in Kinshasa since independence from Belgium in 1960.
The vote was nonetheless marred by accusations of irregularities and the European Union and others cast doubt over its credibility.
News24 24 May 2022
East Africa and the Horn
Hacked-off thorn branches encircle two mounds of earth heaped over the tiny bodies of Halima Hassan Abdullahi’s twin granddaughters. Babies Ebla and Abdia lived only a day.
Weakened by hunger, their mother gave birth to the twins a month early, eight weeks after their exhausted family walked into a camp for displaced families in the Somali town of Dollow.
“She is malnourished and her two babies died of hunger,” Abdullahi said at the Kaxareey camp which sprang up in January and now houses 13,000 people.
They are among more than 6 million Somalis who need aid to survive.
After rains failed for four consecutive seasons, the worst drought in 40 years has shrivelled their beans and maize and dotted scrubland with the corpses of their goats and donkeys
Reuters 25 May 2022
The polls have delivered a new chapter for the country, allowing attention to turn to other pressing problems. A fter a 15-month delay in voting, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud became Somalia’s new president on 15 May. Political leaders had disagreed over the election process, including whether to conduct a one-person, one-vote election or an indirect one. In the end, May’s poll was indirect, with clan delegates voting for parliamentarians, who then cast their ballot for the president.
The government of former president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (Farmajo) had planned nationwide direct elections after years of indirect voting. But in June 2020 the National Independent Electoral Commission put this on hold due to a lack of funds and election infrastructure. Disagreements on the credibility of election management bodies, locations and security added to the delay.
Now that the polls and their disputes are over, the country and its international partners can focus on Somalia’s other priorities. These include finalising the constitutional review, building a viable Somali security force and fighting al-Shabaab. Constructive re-engagement with global financial partners also needs attention, as does the drought crisis affecting around 26% of the population. The country will need the continued support of its international partners to achieve these goals.
Daily Maverick 26 May 2022
Central African Republic
The World Bank is concerned about the transparency and financial impact of the Central African Republic (CAR)’s adoption of Bitcoin as legal tender. It claims that it will be “physically impossible” to fund the nation’s first concrete crypto adoption initiative, which the president announced on Tuesday.
Worry at the World Bank
The World Bank has never been very enthusiastic about nation state Bitcoin adoption. When El Salvador implemented its Bitcoin law in September, the international financial institution shunned offering the nation any support due to “environmental and transparency shortcomings.”
It’s now called off any support for CAR, citing the same concerns:
“We have concerns regarding transparency as well as the potential implications for financial inclusion, the financial sector and public finance at large, in addition to environmental shortcomings,” the World Bank said in an emailed response to Bloomberg.
Crypto Potato 26 May 2022
A month after making bitcoin a legally recognized currency, the Central African Republic has unveiled plans to create a “crypto hub” to attract global crypto enthusiasts.
The plans have been dubbed Project Sango, according to a post on the government’s official Facebook page dated Monday that directed people to a landing page at sango.org. After registering for the waitlist, users were sent a link to a 24-page online presentation with further details on the proposed project.
There was no confirmation of the Facebook post on the Twitter account of Faustin-Archange Touadéra, CAR’s president. Although he had tweeted on Saturday that “very soon we will announce the next planned phase” with the hashtag #bitcoin.
According to the presentation, which is filled with images of undulating skyscrapers and sailboat-dotted lakes, the Sango project involves creating “the first legal crypto hub recognized by a country’s parliament.” CAR’s plans include founding a Digital Nation Bank, facilitating land purchases in bitcoin, and developing a crypto wallet.
The Block Crypto 24 May 2022
Self-delusion and negligence stopped governments and aid agencies from facilitating a genuine and lasting transition to democracy. Three years ago last month, Sudan overthrew its autocratic leader Omar al-Bashir. For the United States, the United Nations, and the international community, Sudan’s revolution was seen as a historic opportunity to transition a dictatorship into a democracy. The United States pledged $700 million to support the transition to democracy in addition to around $600 million in annual assistance. The U.N. set up a mission to support the elections. French leader Emmanuel Macron held a high-profile international donor conference to support the civilian government.
But today, Sudan’s democratic movement is all but stamped out. A military coup against the civilian prime minister in October 2021 halted hopes of a real transition.
I had an up-close view of the revolution as a reporter but wanted to live through Sudan’s transition as well as one could as a foreigner. I worked as a midlevel U.N. official and for nongovernmental organizations in Sudan while conducting candid conversations with activists, the ousted prime minister, and military officials for a book with other authors that chronicled Sudan’s revolution.
Foreign Policy 3 May 2022
Time is short for Sudan to reach a solution to its protracted political crisis, the Special Representative for the country told the Security Council on Tuesday, warning that if the impasse is not urgently overcome, the consequences will be felt beyond national borders, impacting a whole generation.
“The crisis facing Sudan is entirely homegrown and can only be resolved by the Sudanese,” Volker Perthes, who is also Head of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), told Council members.
Envoys of the trilateral mechanism facilitating intra-Sudan talks – the United Nations, the African Union and regional body, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) – have stressed that it is up to the Sudanese, particularly the authorities, to create an environment conducive to the success of any negotiations.
UN News 24 May 2022
Silence has engulfed thousands of homes burnt down in different locations across the southern part of South Sudan’s Unity State. A February and April attack saw about 40,000 locals flee for their lives. The UN Mission in the country called for healing and reconciliation as displaced residents fight to survive.
“Many other people were killed in the village, and all our property was looted, Nyariey Waithie Kutiek a displaced woman says. We ran to this place for protection and to see if we could get something to eat.”
The recent spate of attacks in the area has caused the death of up to 155 people including a humanitarian worker. The UNMISS team leader of Civil Affairs in Unity State wants the perpetrators to be held accountable: “The Mission has always called for accountability of perpetrators, and we believe that this is something that should not be left to go like that,” Paul Ebikwo insists.You will recall that it is about the second time that southern Unity is witnessing this kind of problem.”
Africa News 24 May 2022
UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ilze Brands Kehris today concluded a two-day working mission to the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, following her first official visit to South Sudan from 17 to 19 May.
“Promoting and protecting human rights in South Sudan will help reduce violence and pave the way for political stability, peace and development, including by providing opportunities for young people and future generations,” Brands Kehris said at the end of her visit.
In Juba, she met the First Vice President and other government officials, including the acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Ministers of Justice and the Minister of Defence. Ms. Brands Kehris also met with representatives of civil society, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the UN Country Team, the South Sudan Human Rights Commission, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (RJMEC), the African Union (AU) and other local and international partners. The visit was an opportunity to reiterate the support of the United Nations to the people and Government of South Sudan in achieving peace and justice.
Relief Web 23 May 2022
North Africa and the Sahara
Brahim Ghali, the leader of the Polisario Front, said on Tuesday that “Spain has pending bills that one day it will have to pay,” during his first interview after Spain’s policy shift regarding the Western Sahara dispute.
In a recent interview with the Spanish TV channel Telecinco, the leader of the separatist movement tackled the fraying relationship between the Front and the Spanish government after Madrid’s backed Morocco’s position on Western Sahara.
“Our official relations are broken,” Ghali said.
On 18 March, Spain reversed decades of neutrality on the Western Sahara conflict after announcing its support for Morocco’s autonomy plan for the disputed territory, which offers limited self-government for the Saharawi people within Rabat’s sovereignty.
The New Arab 25 May 2022
The Polisario Front representative to the United Nations, Sidi Mohamed Omar, stressed that the exercise by the Sahrawi people of its right to self-determination will remain “the only option” to resolve the conflict in Western Sahara, warning against the Moroccan project to “change the demographic nature of the territory.
Speaking at the seminar of the UN Committee of 24 in charge of decolonization issues, held from May 11 to 13 in Castries, capital of St. Lucia, Sidi Mohamed Omar said that Morocco was “changing the demographic nature of the Sahrawi territory through intensive settlement policies and incentives in addition to the destruction of cultural heritage and the plundering of natural resources belonging to the Sahrawi people.
For the Sahrawi diplomat, it is imperative to “defend the principles of international legality and complete the process of decolonization of Western Sahara through the free, genuine and democratic expression of the sovereign will of the Sahrawi people in the exercise of its inalienable and non-negotiable right to self-determination and independence.
AllAfrica 15 May 2022