News Briefs 27 October 2017

Democratic Republic of Congo

UNHCR warns of worsening displacement in Democratic Republic of the Congo

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is increasingly concerned by escalating displacement we are seeing in several key regions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since 2015 the number of people displaced internally has more than doubled and now stands at 3.9 million people – some 428,000 of these having been displaced in the past three months alone. Over the past year, some 100,000 Congolese have fled to neighbouring countries as refugees. With widespread militia activities, and unrest and violence fueled by ethnic and political conflict affecting many areas, the risk of further displacement is high. The challenges of getting aid to people in need are growing fast.


Widespread militia activity, political unrest drive millions from their homes in DR Congo, UN warns

Some 3.9 million people across several regions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have been displaced from their homes, and amid growing violence and unrest, the United Nations refugee agency warned on Tuesday that the number could rise even further.

According to a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), over the last three months alone, more than 428,000 people have been displaced.

“With widespread militia activities, and unrest and violence fuelled by ethnic and political conflict affecting many areas, the risk of further displacement is high,” UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards told journalists at a regular briefing in Geneva today.

“The challenges of getting aid to people in need are growing fast,” he added.

UN News


Somalia Preparing for Large-scale Offensive Against Al-Shabab

Somali government troops and their African Union allies are preparing a large-scale offensive against al-Shabab militants, according to multiple witnesses and government officials.

Somali leaders including the president have threatened to retaliate for the truck bombing of a busy Mogadishu intersection on Oct. 14 that killed more than 300 people. Al-Shabab did not claim responsibility for the blast, but officials blamed the group and few Somalis doubt the accusation.

A resident of Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region told VOA on Thursday that thousands of troops are massing in the area.



Somalia truck bombings: Death toll climbs to 358

The death toll in a double bombing in Somalia has climbed to 358 people, Security Minister Mohamed Abukar and Information Minister Abdirahman Omar Osman said Friday.

The truck bombings occurred October 14, in Mogadishu, the capital city. The initial vehicle bomb destroyed dozens of stalls and the popular Safari Hotel in the heart of the city. Minutes later, a second vehicle bomb went off nearby.

Abukar and Osman said 56 people are still missing and 228 are injured, with 122 of the most seriously injured flown to Turkey, Sudan and Kenya for treatment.

News Day

Central African Republic

UN chief praises peacekeepers in Central African Republic

The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres paid tribute on Wednesday to the thousands of the UN peacekeepers in Central African Republic, the site of one of the UN’s most dangerous missions and the most sexual misconduct allegations against peacekeepers and UN personnel last year.

The UN chief attended a wreath-laying ceremony in the capital of Bangui. A dozen peacekeepers have lost their lives so far this year amid escalating violence in the long-volatile country.

“We need to make sure that the world fully appreciates the heroic contributions of peacekeepers protecting civilians, sometimes in extremely difficult circumstances, like the ones we face in the Central African Republic,” Guterres said.


Central African Republic: Civilians Targeted as Violence Surges

Violence threatening civilians has surged in recent months in the Central African Republic’s south-central and southeastern regions. To protect people at risk, the United Nations Security Council should renew the mandate of the UN peacekeeping mission before it ends on November 15, 2017, and approve an October 18 request by Secretary-General António Guterres for 900 more troops.

United Nations peacekeepers have been instrumental in protecting civilians in many instances; the 15-member Council should give the peacekeeping mission, MINUSCA, the additional resources the UN says it needs to protect civilians from attacks, including sexual abuse.

Human Rights Watch


Sudan opens up as US lifts sanctions

Sudan’s government and its businesses have begun introducing financial reforms and lobbying for new investment to revive the economy after Washington lifted 20-year-old trade sanctions earlier in October.

Sudan has suffered from the sanctions and the south’s secession in 2011, when it lost three-quarters of its oil output, its main foreign currency source.

Now, Khartoum businessmen say they are closing deals with US companies, and President Omar al-Bashir began a trip to Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia this week, seeking new markets for Sudanese exports and Arab investment in Sudan.

Business Day

EU announces $124 million in humanitarian aid for Sudan

The European Union has announced a $124 million humanitarian and development aid package for Sudan.

The donation, the EU Commission said Monday, would go towards urgent food, water, sanitation, health and education needs, as well as supporting people who have been forced from their homes and the communities that host them.

EU’s commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis management, Christos Stylianides, said the aid was necessary to meet the needs of displaced Sudanese as well as refugees who came from neighboring South Sudan.

“The humanitarian aid I am announcing today will help bring life-saving relief to the most vulnerable populations,” said Stylianides during a visit to South Darfur in Sudan.

Sudan Tribune

South Sudan

UN Ambassador Nikki Haley evacuated from South Sudan camp after protest violence breaks out

Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, was suddenly evacuated Wednesday from a U.N. camp in South Sudan after violence and looting broke out during a political demonstration.

Haley, who’s in the middle of a three-country visit in Africa, left the camp as several hundred protesters opposing President Salva Kiir approached, a spokesperson for the U.S. Mission to the U.N. told Fox News. The protesters “became upset that [Haley] was not able to meet with them, due to time constraint,” the U.N. told The Associated Press.

Shortly after Haley left the camp, which is meant for homeless and displaced residents, U.N. security guards fired tear gas into the crowd of more than 100 people who looted and destroyed a charity office operating there, an aid worker at the camp said.

Fox News

US Mulls South Sudan Pressure, Cutting Aid May Not Work – UN Envoy

The United States is considering how to pressure South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir into peace, but withdrawing aid may not work, US envoy to the United Nations Nikki Haley said ahead of a visit to South Sudanese refugees in Ethiopia on Tuesday.

Haley plans to visit Gambella in western Ethiopia, where nearly 350,000 refugees have flooded across the border from South Sudan since the country spiraled into civil war in 2013, just two years after it gained independence from Sudan.

“You have to really think hard before you pull US aid because President Kiir doesn’t care,” Haley said. “He doesn’t care if his people suffer and that’s the concern we have as we don’t know that will make a difference.”


Western Sahara

The Battleground for the Morocco-Algeria Rivalry

In an interview last month with Jeune Afrique, Morocco’s Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita argued that Morocco-Algeria relations “are at a dead end at every level.” To add insult to injury, in a meeting with business leaders in Algiers last week, Algeria’s foreign minister Abdelkader Messahel accused Morocco of “laundering cannabis money via its banks in the continent (Africa).” Rabat reacted to the comments by recalling its ambassador to Algeria on 21 October. Morocco’s foreign ministry also issued a statement, saying that the comments demonstrate, “an unprecedented level of irresponsibility in the history of bilateral relations.”

This state of affairs is not particularly new. The two countries maintain a regional rivalry that goes beyond the conflict over the Western Sahara territory. Currently, the competition is rising over regional influence across the African continent in the wake of Morocco’s foreign policy shift toward this region.


New UN envoy pays first visit to disputed Western Sahara

The United Nations’ new special envoy for the disputed Western Sahara has met with Morocco’s King Mohammed VI and government ministers as part of his first tour of the region.

Horst Kohler, A former president of Germany, is also expected to visit refugee camps in Algeria for Saharawi refugees who fled the territory.

Moroccan state news agency MAP reports that the king received Kohler on Tuesday at the royal palace in Rabat. Kohler also met with Prime Minister Sa?deddine El Othmani and Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita.

Some hope Kohler brings new impetus for a long-delayed referendum on Western Sahara’s future.

ABC News


Ex-MP Sues for ‘Jail Assault’

A former member of the Swaziland parliament is suing the kingdom’s jail services, alleging he was assaulted while an inmate at a correctional facility.

Charles Myeza says officers at the Bhalekane Correctional Centre squeezed his private parts and smacked his buttocks.

He is not the first former inmate at Bhalekane to allege to have been assaulted in this way.

Myeza has filed a claim at the Swazi High Court and with another former inmate is seeking E600,000 (US$44,000) damages.


‘Secretive’ Gold Mine Closes

A gold mine in Swaziland opened by King Mswati III promising more than 400 jobs has been closed after allegations of poor management.

The Lufafa Gold Mine (now known as Lomati) at Hhelehhele in the Hhohho region was in February 2016 reported to have more than two million tonnes of ore which could contain about 15,000 kilograms of gold. It had an estimated value of more than E4 billion (US$263 million). Twenty-five percent of this would be held by King Mswati ‘in trust’ for the Swazi nation. Lufafa Managing Director Mihla Dlamini said at the time there was enough gold to be dug for a period of 35 years.

Minister of Natural Resources and Energy Jabulile Mashwama said on Monday (9 October 2017) the mine had been shut down after concerns were raised by different stakeholders about the running and administration of the company.



‘You were right about Grace Mugabe bedroom coup remarks,’ war vets say as they apologise to former boss

A faction of Zimbabwe’s war veterans led by Christopher Mutsvangwa has reportedly apologised to its former boss, Jabulani Sibanda, after it vilified him for claiming that First Lady Grace Mugabe had staged a “bedroom coup”.

According to NewsDay, the Mutsvangwa-led executive of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) said that they apologised to the ex-freedom fighters’ chairperson after realising that his remarks were “spot-on”.

“We want to say we are very sorry about our reactions to his statement. We have realised that when he talked of ‘bedroom coup’ he was spot-on because Grace and the so-called G40 have already usurped power from Zanu-PF. Grace is just a secretary for women affairs. Where does she have the powers to insult her boss, who is the vice secretary for the party?” Nhando reportedly quizzed.


Zimbabwe’s grim hospital wards fuel outrage toward WHO

An emergency tray at a public hospital in Zimbabwe stands empty, for medical supplies have run out – one example why President Robert Mugabe’s brief appointment as WHO “goodwill ambassador” provoked such outrage.

Under Mugabe’s rule, life expectancy in Zimbabwe dived from 61 in 1985 to just 44 in 2002, before recovering to 60 today, due largely to international aid.

The major causes of the country’s health crisis have been the collapse of healthcare, falling standards of living as the economy has crumbled, and the struggle to tackle HIV-Aids, experts say.



Africa in General

Low turnout as violence tarnishes Kenya’s repeat election

As polling officials tallied votes, Kenyans counted the cost Friday of a deeply divisive election marred by low voter turnout and violence that left at least four dead and scores wounded.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta is headed for a landslide win in the absence of his main rival Raila Odinga who boycotted the vote, however his legitimacy will be sorely questioned with initial figures showing only about a third of registered voters turned up.

The country’s second presidential election in three months has sharply divided east Africa’s flagship democracy, and could yet face further legal battles.

In its post-election editorial the Daily Nation warned Kenya is now “more fractured and unstable than ever before” but added, “ours is a political problem that requires a political solution.”

“There is a need to forge inclusivity.”

The Citizen

Burundi becomes 1st to leave ICC

Burundi is becoming the first country to withdraw from the International Criminal Court.

An ICC spokesperson confirmed that the pullout takes effect on Friday, a year after the East African nation notified the United Nations secretary-general of its intention to leave the court that prosecutes the world’s worst atrocities.

Burundi is the only one of three African nations to go ahead with its withdrawal after making moves last year to leave amid accusations that the court focuses too much on the continent.


Burundi government backs disputed constitution change

The government of crisis-torn Burundi has approved changes to the constitution that could pave the way to a potential 14-year extension in President Pierre Nkurunziza’s stay in office, senior officials said Thursday.

Ministers, meeting on Tuesday in an extraordinary session, gave their agreement in principle to the proposed reforms, they said.

The head of Burundi’s opposition forum reacted with fury, declaring Nukurunziza had crossed a “red line” and should be chased from office.

The present constitution derives from the country’s 2000 peace agreement, which was signed in the northern Tanzanian town of Arusha to end a 13-year civil war that claimed more than 300,000 lives.

The planned changes do not touch ethnic and gender quotas required for the government, parliament or police, “but they no longer make a reference to the Arusha peace agreement”, said one of the officials, who like the other sources spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Citizen

Nikki Haley abruptly evacuated from South Sudan camp, now visits Congo

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley was in Congo on Thursday to press for free elections, one day after she was abruptly evacuated from a U.N. camp in South Sudan amid a turbulent demonstration against that country’s leadership.

Haley is wrapping up a three-nation African tour that began in Ethiopia. In South Sudan, Haley was visiting a camp for more than 30,000  people displaced by the country’s relentless civil war that has killed thousands and driven more than 2 million from their homes.

Hundreds of people lined the roads of the camp near the South Sudan capital of Juba, many gathering outside her meeting with reunited families to chant and call for peace, the U.N. said in a statement.

A smaller demonstration against President Salva Kiir grew violent, and an aide worker at the camp told the Associated Press that U.N. security guards fired tear gas to disperse the crowd. The United Nations said camp residents “became upset that (Haley) was not able to meet with them, due to time constraint.

USA Today