News Briefs 28 June 2019

Democratic Republic of Congo

UN extends DRC sanctions as refugee flows increase

With civilians fleeing a spate of inter-ethnic violence in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday extended its arms embargo, asset freeze and a travel ban on the country until July 2020.

The sanctions prohibit countries from selling or supplying weapons to rebel groups in the DRC, which has been wracked by conflict since the early 1990s and has seen a recent spike in violence in Ituri province.

A French-drafted resolution, which was passed unanimously at a brief meeting, requires governments to block the travel of designated militia leaders and politicians and to freeze their bank accounts and other assets.


Urgent humanitarian response needed on unprecedented crises in northeast DRC

Multiple humanitarian crises are unfolding in Ituri province, north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and hundreds of thousands of people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, according to Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

The recent upsurge in violence across the regions of Djugu, Mahagi and Irumu have forced thousands to flee their homes. Despite MSF’s repeated calls on international aid organisations to scale up humanitarian aid, the majority of the displaced still haven’t received even the most basic assistance.

“Unfortunately, this is not the first time there are important humanitarian needs in the country,” explains Dr Moussa Ousman, MSF Head of Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “This time we are seeing not only mass displacement due to violence but also a rapidly spreading measles outbreak and an Ebola epidemic that shows no signs of slowing down, all at the same time. This is unprecedented.”


Central African Republic

Bishops in Central African Republic warn of cycle of violence from gangs

Catholic bishops in the Central African Republic have condemned actions by an armed gang loyal to the country’s president and warned of growing exasperation with empty peace pledges.

“Every political regime seems to be linked to some militia – how can such violence-prone movements be left to organize and plan?” asked the Central African Republic bishops’ conference.

“The people are tired of the hypocrisy characterizing the signature of accords, which are violated as soon as they are signed. We demand the unconditional restoration of the state’s authority throughout Central African territory.”


A Worrying Attack on Journalists in Central African Republic

“Crisis” is a word often used over the last six years to describe the situation in the Central African Republic. More than 70 percent of the country remains in the control of armed groups and a fragile peace accord is being tested by recent killings in the northwest. But parts of the country under central government control, including the capital, Bangui, were considered safe for journalists and political opponents to operate. Until now.

Last weekend, two French journalists and a Central African political opponent were violently assaulted and arrested by members of the Central Office for the Repression of Banditry (OCRB) during a peaceful demonstration. The journalists, Charles Bouessel and Florent Vergnes, both work for news agency Agence France-Presse and were covering a protest organized by a new opposition movement. The Minister of Interior had banned the event two days prior.

Human Rights Watch


Sudan protest leaders receive new AU, Ethiopia transition plan

The Sudanese movement protesting for the military to hand over to civilian rule said on Thursday it received a new proposal for a transition drafted by Ethiopia and the African Union (AU).

The new proposal calls for a civilian-majority ruling council as demanded by protesters, but it fails to mention the make-up of a new transitional parliament.

“The Alliance for Freedom and Change received the draft … and will be considering the proposal to make a decision,” the umbrella group said in a statement.

The move comes after Sudan’s ruling generals urged mediators from the AU and Ethiopia to unify their efforts and come up with a joint proposal on the country’s transition.


UN ‘pauses’ peacekeeper pull-out amid Sudan turbulence

The United Nations Security Council has delayed a planned pullout of peacekeepers from Sudan’s western province of Darfur after the nation was plunged into crisis following the overthrow of longtime president Omar al-Bashir.

The 15-member body on Thursday voted unanimously for a resolution – drafted by the United Kingdom and Germany – to extend the so-called United Nations-African Union Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) at its current size until October 31.

The UN currently has almost 5,600 so-called blue helmets in Darfur, though plans had been in place to reduce the force’s size to 4,050.


South Sudan

Peace dividend palpable in South Sudan, but ‘grassroots’ are moving faster than elites, says Shearer

Special Representative and head of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), David Shearer, was briefing the Security Council in New York on efforts to build a durable peace and protect civilians from the ravages of a brutal conflict that erupted between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir, and his former deputy, Riek Machar, in 2013. 

Last September, a revitalized peace agreement was signed between the two, and it has largely held: “The drop in political violence…has meant hundreds, if not thousands of people are alive, who otherwise would not be”, said Mr. Shearer.

According to UN figures, more than half a million South Sudanese have chosen to return home, including more than 210,000 refugees from neighbouring countries.

UN News

Give us more time to settle dues, South Sudan pleads with EAC

The East African Community should not suspend Juba over debt, but instead give it more time to remit its dues, a South Sudanese minister has said.

South Sudan has been having financial problems but it is working on meeting its obligations, the Minister for Trade, Industry and East African Community Affairs Paul Mayom added.

In an interview with the East African on Thursday on the sidelines of the First China-Africa Trade Expo in Changsha, the capital of central China’s Hunan province, the minister said Juba was committed to pay bloc’s annual contributions.

“The government of South Sudan has always put plans in place to meet its EAC obligations but all these need time to deliver. We have problems with funding though the matter is now with the Ministry of Finance. Therefore, other EAC members and the Assembly should be patient with us,” Mr Mayom said.

The East African

Western Sahara

Conference in Geneva on Sahrawi people rights abuse

The UN Human Rights Council hosted Wednesday a conference on the Moroccan occupation attacks on the economic, social and cultural rights in Western Sahara and the negative role of some European countries, which hinders the settlement of the conflict, contribute directly to perpetuate the sufferings of the Sahrawi people.

The said conference organized by the Geneva Support Group for Western Sahara, saw the participation of the Sahrawi Minister Delegate for Europe, Mohamed Sidati, as well as the City Council of Vitoria and the ambassadors of the countries friends with the Sahrawi people and Sahrawi human rights activists.

During this meeting, coinciding with the 41st session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, participants discussed the retaliation policy conducted by the Moroccan occupation in the occupied Sahrawi territories, stressing that this policy “spares none of the fundamental rights of the Sahrawi people,” guaranteed by international law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Sahara Press Service

UN efforts to end Western Sahara conflict face Moroccan occupation intransigence and its allies within the Security Council (Sahrawi diplomat)

The representative of the Frente POLISARIO in France, Mr. Abbi Bashraya, stressed that the efforts exerted by the United Nations and its Personal Envoy, former German President Horst Köhler, for the decolonization of Western Sahara were all met with obstinacy and obstruction by Morocco with a strong support from France through its passive role within the UN Security Council in influencing all decisions that would push the peace process to a just final solution to the issue.

Abbi Bashraya broached the French Council of Rize on the latest developments of the Sahara issue, giving to them the legal situation of Western Sahara, which the United Nations General Assembly in its resolutions of 1979 and 1980 recognized the Moroccan presence as an illegal occupation to territory.

Sahara Press Service


Swaziland Public Servants Talk of Working Three-Day Week As Wages Dispute Drags On

Public servants in Swaziland / eSwatini are threatening to work only three days a week in the latest move in a two-year-old pay dispute. They want a 14.4 percent cost of living increase but the government of absolute monarch King Mswati III has said it cannot afford to pay anything.

Public service unions marched on government on Wednesday (26 June 2019) to deliver a petition. After the march the Times of Swaziland reported union negotiators said if the government did not meet their pay claim by July, public servants would only work three days a week in future.

It reported, ‘Their argument was that as it was, they were working five days per week but received a salary equivalent to three days, based on the erosion by inflation rate in the past two financial years.’

Negotiations are due to continue between unions and government next Wednesday.


Swaziland Hospital Crisis – Govt Not Paid Bills So Patients Only Eat Bread

Patients in a public hospital in Swaziland / eSwatini were only fed two slices of bread at meals when food ran out because the government had not paid suppliers.

It was reported the bakery would only deliver bread if it was paid in advance.

Swaziland is reeling from a health crisis because the government has not paid it debts. Nurses plan a protest march against government.

The Times of Swaziland reported on Monday (18 June 2019) that the food shortage hit two public hospitals, Hlatikhulu Government Hospital and Nhlangano Health Centre, both in the Shiselweni Region.



Zimbabwe allays fears over gold sales, remittances after currency reform

Zimbabwe’s central bank has reassured gold companies and people receiving money transfers that they will still be able to receive foreign currency in their bank accounts after a ban takes effect in shops.

On Monday, Zimbabwe declared its interim RTGS dollar the only legal tender, ending the decade-long use of multiple currencies including the U.S. dollar.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa said the move was an important step to repair the economy, but it caused uncertainty among businesses and people who rely on remittances from the large Zimbabwean diaspora.

“Authorised dealers are advised the current payment arrangements for large-scale gold producers shall continue to apply and the current retention thresholds have remained the same,” a central bank notice sent late on Tuesday said.


Zimbabwe Gets $58M from China, says ‘Debt Trap’ Worries Not Foreigners’ Business

The government of Zimbabwe recently completed agreements to receive over $58 million in investment grants from China during a meeting of the Chinese Communist Party’s Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), Zimbabwean media reported Wednesday.

The FOCAC formally met last year, but Zimbabwe sent representatives to Beijing this week to sign the completed written agreements discussed during that event.

Zimbabwe’s Herald notes that envoys from another 52 African countries attended, seeking Chinese investment and loans.

China has invested heavily in Africa during Communist Party leader Xi Jinping’s tenure, which began early this decade.



Nearly 250 arrested in Ethiopia after failed coup: State TV

Nearly 250 people have been arrested in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa and the city of Bahir Dar since a coup attempt was foiled, the state-run Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation reported on Thursday.

The state broadcaster did not give any more details on who was arrested or when. But a party based in the northern region – the National Movement of Amhara (NAMA) – earlier said 56 of its members had been detained in Addis Ababa on Wednesday.

Ethiopia has been on edge since twin attacks at the weekend in Addis Ababa and the city of Bahir Dar killed the army chief of staff, the region’s president and three other senior officials.


Ethiopia must contain the demons of ethno-nationalism

Ethiopia, Africa’s oldest independent country, has been at its highest ebb in decades with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed at the helm. He has used his first 18 months in power to end ­decades of repression.

We have been mesmerised by the transformation with political prisoners released, the removal of bans on opposition political parties, the prosecution of officials accused of human rights abuses and a new good neighbourliness with Eritrea.

Not to mention the strong leadership and mediation skills he deployed in his discussions with Sudan’s Transitional Military Council in order to get them to compromise with the opposition. If there was a Nobel prize for good governance and visionary leadership, it should have gone to Abiy Ahmed.

But the new period of promise ushered in by Ahmed has been shaken to the core by a wave of assassinations six days ago that saw the Army Chief of Staff, General Seare Mekonnen, and General Gezai Abera killed.


Africa in General

Egypt to present vision on Africa’s development at G-20 summit

Egypt’s participation in the G20 summit in the Japanese city of Osaka provides a great opportunity to present Cairo’s vision aimed at strengthening international efforts to push forward development endeavors in Africa and list the African file on the international agenda, said the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

In a statement released on Thursday, the ministry added that the event will provide a chance to discuss a number of key issues between Egypt and Japan, as well as shed light on Cairo’s economic reforms and probe means of fostering bilateral relations at the economic, trade, industrial and investment levels during the coming phase.

In this regard, the ministry pointed out that trade exchange between Egypt and Japan in 2018 hit $1.26 billion, compared to $969 million in 2017.

Egypt Today

Regaining confidence in multinational trading system an urgent task for G20

Japan will host the Group of Twenty (G20) summit in Osaka on June 28 and 29. This premier forum for international economic co-operation brings together many developed countries, and emerging countries with a growing presence in the international economy. The G20 countries currently embrace more than 80% of the global economy and more than 60% of the world population. Therefore, G20 members have to assume special responsibility for the global economy.

SA, as the only member in the G20 from the African continent, is expected to play a decisive role to co-ordinate development efforts and economic policies of African countries and the G20. The foundation for African economies is inextricably connected to the Osaka G20’s priority agendas, namely sustainable growth, global challenges and digital innovation.

Sustainable growth in the global economy is one of the priority areas of G20 discussions. The G20 members need to co-ordinate their efforts to remove existing uncertainties. In this context, regaining confidence in the multinational trading system is one of the most urgent tasks G20 members are facing. The reform of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) remains an important priority for Osaka.


Is Ethiopia’s new democracy under threat after coup attempt?

Relative calm has returned to the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa and Bahir Dar, seat of the Amhara regional government, following a series of assassinations last Saturday in Amhara State which the Ethiopian government described as an attempted coup in the state – the country’s second-largest federal region.

Regional leader Ambachew Mekonnen and two of his advisors were shot dead on June 22. Several hours later, Ethiopia’s military chief of staff, General Seare Mekonnen, and a retired officer were shot dead by a bodyguard.

Amhara’s hard-line security chief Asaminew Tsige, suspected of being the mastermind behind the killings, was killed in a subsequent firefight following a military raid on Monday.

The outbreak of violence has meant there is a high probability that next year’s May elections will not go ahead – an election that would have confirmed support for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s reformist agenda, according to some analysts.