News Briefs – 28 October 2016

Democratic Republic of Congo

DRC Tensions Continue Despite Regional Backing of Election Delay

Central African heads of state meeting Wednesday in Luanda, Angola, endorsed the deal signed last week in the Democratic Republic of Congo that delays that country’s elections by nearly two years. But the regional stamp of approval has not diminished tensions in the country itself.

The African Union-mediated agreement pushes elections in the DRC from next month to April 2018. President Joseph Kabila will stay on until then at the head of a new power-sharing government, though his elected mandate expires in December.

Angola’s president, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, himself in power since 1979, said Wednesday the accord will help “put an end to the climate of contestation and destabilization.”

Voice of America

Seventeen arrested in DR Congo for protesting election delay

Police in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo arrested at least 17 democracy activists this week for campaigning against the postponement of the presidential election, fellow activists said, though 11 had been freed by Wednesday evening.

President Joseph Kabila has ruled Congo since 2001 and is required by the constitution to step down in December. But the ruling coalition and part of the opposition agreed this month to delay the vote to pick his successor from this November to April 2018, citing problems enrolling millions of voters.

Eight members of youth activist group Struggle for Change (Lucha) were arrested in the eastern city of Goma on Wednesday as they prepared to hold a sit-in near the headquarters of the UN peacekeeping mission, Lucha said in a statement.



Somalia’s al-Shabaab in comeback, as Ethiopia pulls troops

Somalia’s Islamic extremist rebels, al-Shabaab, are making a comeback, having recently seized four towns and attacked a guesthouse in neighboring Kenya, killing 12.

The resurgence of al-Shabab, which is allied to al-Qaeda, could affect Somalia’s plans to hold elections next month and further destabilize what is already one of the world’s most failed states.

The rebels had steadily lost ground over the past five years, first losing control of the capital, Mogadishu, in 2011 and then being pushed out of virtually all of Somalia’s other major cities and towns. This was largely the work of the African Union force of 22 000 soldiers from Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Burundi and Djibouti, which is supported by the UN. The relatively weak Somalia army, with 35,000 troops, also participated in the operations.




Somalia: Concern for deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaalkacyo

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) is concerned about the worsening humanitarian situation for people in Gaalkacyo in central Somalia, due to violence over the past three weeks.

“At least 85,000 people have been displaced by the fighting so far, 60 per cent of whom have been forced to flee their homes multiple times already because of conflict and drought,” said NRC’s Country Director in Somalia, Abdelgadir Ahmed. “The most recent fighting threatens to aggravate an already fragile situation for communities living in Gaalkacyo.”

Insecurity in 2015 displaced 90,000 people in Gaalkacyo, many of whom have since been living in displacement sites across the city. All 13 displacement settlements in south Gaalkacyo, with an estimated population of 20,000, have been abandoned in the past three weeks. Another eight in the north of the city have been vacated. Over 80 per cent of those displaced are women, children and the elderly.


Central African Republic

Four dead in UN Bangui shooting

Four people have been killed during protests against the UN peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic. Peacekeepers opened fire when demonstrators tried to force their way into the UN headquarters, says a BBC reporter, who saw bodies being taken away in a police vehicle.

The UN denies using live bullets and says its soldiers only used tear gas. A group of Central Africans wants the UN mission to withdraw, saying it is failing to protect people. The peacekeepers were deployed after civil war broke out in 2013 when then-President Francois Bozize was ousted by mainly Muslim Seleka rebels.


Tensions Rise Over Perception of UN Favouring Militia Groups

Frustration and lack of communication are fomenting violence in Bangui, Central African Republic, and additionally throughout the country, according to a reconciliation expert. Peaceful protests on the streets of the capital turned violent on Monday when clashes broke out, killing four people and wounding 14 in the skirmishes between protesters and the UN peacekeeping force (MINUSCA) on the streets of Bangui, said the UN.

The death toll was disputed by Gervais Lakosso, president, Work and Civil Society Group, a non-governmental organisation that held the demonstration aimed at getting MINUSCA out of the country. He said that six people were killed.

MINUSCA maintains that Lakosso and his group do not represent the will of Central Africans.

“This is not a general position. It’s not backed by the entire Central African [population],” said Vladimir Monteiro, MINUSCA spokesman, adding that they had spoken to Lakosso twice recently.


Chances of success high in Central African Republic if investments made in peace – UN Deputy Secretary-General

United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson today said that the Central African Republic (CAR) can focus on stabilization, reconciliation and reconstruction now that the country has emerged from one of the worst crises of its history and was trying to establish legitimate institutions.

“A significant investment has been made by the international community to come to this point: for the United Nations, our support in providing humanitarian assistance, our efforts on reconciliation, recovery, development and of course the presence of MINUSCA [the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic] illustrate our determination to help the country,” said Mr. Eliasson.

Mr. Eliasson was speaking to UN Member States and key partners at UN Headquarters in New York ahead of the Donors Conference on the Central African Republic taking place on 17 November in the Belgian capital, Brussels.

UN News


President Kenyatta to visit Sudan on Saturday

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta will arrive to Khartoum on Saturday in a state a two-day visit at the invitation of his Sudanese counterpart Omer al-Bashir.

Presidents al-Bashir and Kenyatta will discuss regional and international issues of common interest, and ways to develop bilateral relations, said a statement issued by spokesperson of the Sudanese foreign ministry on Thursday.

During the visit, the two countries will sign a number of memorandums of understanding and bilateral cooperation agreements in the field of media, culture and higher education, technology, housing and reconstruction, and agriculture and livestock, further said Ambassador Gharib Allah Khidir.

Sudan Tribune

Sudan backs Gambia, blames Security Council for its position over ICC

Sudan has backed Gambia’s decision to quit the International Criminal Court (ICC) after South Africa and Burundi, blamed the UN Security Council for ignoring the African concerns over the war crimes court.

The Hague based court has been accused of unjustly targeting Africa officials while similar crimes are not investigated in Europe and elsewhere. Recently, South Africa and Burundi decided to leave the court. Gambia is the latest African state to withdraw from the international body.

Last July, the African Union once again requested the Security Council to suspend the referral of the case of Sudan’s President Omer al-Bashir and to terminate or suspend the case of Deputy President William Samoei Ruto of Kenya at the ICC until Africa’s concerns and proposals for amendments to the Rome Statute of the ICC are considered.

Sudan’s Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Abdel-Ghani al-Naeem Thursday told Sudan Tribune that the African Union following Kigali Summit last July sought to meet the Security Council over the ICC but the 15-member body didn’t respond to their demand.

Sudan Tribune

South Sudan

U.N. chief seeks Security Council help with South Sudan rebels in Congo

United Nations Chief Ban Ki-moon has asked the Security Council for help to resolve a stalemate between peacekeepers and the Democratic Republic of Congo government over what to do with hundreds of South Sudanese rebel fighters.

In a letter to the 15-member council, seen by Reuters on Thursday, Ban said 755 South Sudanese rebels had crossed into Congo’s Garamba National Park with opposition leader Riek Machar in August. They fled the South Sudanese capital Juba in July, after fighting erupted between Machar’s forces and troops loyal to his rival, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir.

U.N. peacekeepers in Congo extracted Machar, his wife, son and 10 others from Garamba at the request of the Congolese government in mid-August, Ban said.

Since then the United Nations has been trying to broker an agreement between Congo and South Sudan on the repatriation of the fighters or their relocation to a third country until a political deal is in place in South Sudan, Ban said.


Pope Francis accepts church leaders’ invitation to visit South Sudan

Pope Francis has accepted an invitation to visit South Sudan to preach peace in the country embroiled in inter-ethnic and political strife, religious leaders said after talks with the pontiff on Thursday.

“He accepted the invitation and said that in principle he really wants to come,” said Rev. Peter Gai Lual Marrow of the South Sudan’s Presbyterian Church.

Marrow and Paulino Lukudu Loro, Catholic Archbishop of the capital, Juba, and Episcopalian Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul Yak held talks with the pope, who had asked them to come to the Vatican to discuss the situation in their country.

Oil-producing South Sudan, which became independent in 2011, descended into civil war in December 2013 when a dispute between President Salva Kiir and his sacked deputy Riek Machar ended with fighting, often occurring along ethnic lines. Both sides have targeted civilians, human rights groups say.


Western Sahara

There Can Be Only Negotiated Political Solution to Western Sahara: Ambassador

Morocco stressed in the United Nations in Geneva that the only way forward to put an end to the dispute over the Western Sahara is through a mutually acceptable political solution.

During a meeting at the UN office in Geneva, Morocco’s permanent representative to Geneva, ambassador Mohamed Aujjar, said that “the regional dispute over the Moroccan Sahara can be resolved only through a negotiated political solution pursuant to UNSC resolutions.”

Since 2004, the UNSC committed itself to finding a mutually-acceptable political solution to this conflict, as an alternative to the failure in the implementation of the 1991 settlement plan, said the diplomat during the examining of the 6th Moroccan report by the UNHRC.

Morocco World News

UN peacekeeping chief to visit disputed Western Sahara

The UN peacekeeping chief said on Tuesday he is heading to the disputed Western Sahara later this week to visit UN troops for the first time since Morocco expelled more than 70 UN civilian staffers in March to protest comments by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Herve Ladsous told a group of reporters after briefing the Security Council that he will visit Layoune, the largest city in Western Sahara, as well as camps for Sahrawi refugees in neighboring Tindouf, Algeria, and the Moroccan capital, Rabat.

He will be the highest-ranking UN official to visit the region since early March when Ban used the word “occupation” in talking about Morocco’s involvement in Western Sahara during a visit to a refugee camp in Tindouf. That led to demonstrations against Ban in Morocco and the government’s decision to expel UN civilian workers.



1.4 Million People Are Facing Serious Hunger in Drought-Hit Southern Madagascar

Of that number, 850,000 are said to be in need of urgent humanitarian assistance

This year’s El Niño weather pattern has amplified the effects of consecutive droughts in southern Madagascar, ravaging crops and leaving 1.4 million people desperately short of food.

A report published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) on Wednesday said that insufficient rainfall in the southern region of Androy alone caused an 80 percent drop in maize production this year.

Production of the staple in the south was already down after the droughts in 2015. Yields of cassava, another staple, were also severely reduced.

Crop failures are forcing people to sell their animals and agricultural tools, and is driving them to forage in the wild. The FAO said that it and the World Food Program were trying to replace tools and distribute quick-maturing, drought-tolerant seeds.



King reshuffles TEN diplomats

His Majesty King Mswati III has reshuffled the country’s diplomats serving in foreign missions.

Prime Minister Sibusiso Dlamini announced the reshuffle of 10 foreign envoys currently representing the country in foreign states yesterday.

Njabuliso Busisiwe Gwebu will be Ambassador of the Kingdom of Swaziland in the United States of America (USA), while Reverend Abednigo Ntshangase who was Ambassador in the US has been moved to be High Commissioner of Swaziland to the Republic of Mozambique.

Transferred “Dumsile Sukati who was High Commissioner to the United Kingdom has been transferred to be High Commissioner to the Republic of South Africa.

Swazi Observer

Swaziland: Nurses Threaten to Strike Next Week

Nurses in Swaziland are threatening to embark on an indefinite strike next week after the government in Mbabane failed to meet their demands for better working conditions.

Last week, leaders of the Swaziland Nurses Association presented a petition to Prime Minister Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini’s office demanding better working conditions. They also issued an ultimatum that the group would strike if the administration failed to address their concerns within seven business days.

The ultimatum expired Wednesday, but the government has yet to signal its intentions, according to Sibusiso Lushaba, national secretary of the Swaziland Nurses Association.

He says the decision to demand better working conditions was taken at a national meeting of nurses in October 2015. Lushaba says there was a consensus at the meeting that the administration in Mbabane be lobbied to improve working conditions and create more opportunities for nurses across the country.


Military chief says corruption threatens Zimbabwe’s security

A top Zimbabwe army general says corruption in President Robert Mugabe’s government has become a security threat.

In a sharp rebuke of senior ruling party officials, Zimbabwe National Army Chief of Staff (administration), Major-General Douglas Nyikayaramba, told Parliament that corruption by some senior government officials was bleeding the economy.

Maj-Gen Nyikayaramba’s comments followed serious infighting in President Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party over a failed attempt by the anti-graft agency to arrest a minister accused of abusing public funds.

President Mugabe three weeks ago blocked the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) from arresting Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo over alleged abuse of over $450,000 from a State manpower development fund.

Daily Nation

Record levels of assault, abduction and torture reported in Zimbabwe

NGO records hundreds of cases of political violence, which it says are mostly perpetrated by state security forces

Political violence in Zimbabwe has increased dramatically in 2016, with record levels of assault, abduction and torture recorded as opposition to Robert Mugabe’s 36-year rule escalates.

Around 654 cases of political violence were recorded by a local NGO, the Counselling Services Unit (CSU), as of 21 October, compared to 476 cases in the whole of 2015.

The CSU found that assaults were overwhelmingly perpetrated by the state’s security forces – including police, military and the secretive Central Intelligence Organisation – while opposition supporters and civil society activists had been on the receiving end of the increasingly violent treatment.

The Guardian


Africa in General

African revolt threatens international criminal court’s legitimacy

The claim that the international criminal court unfairly targets Africans is gaining significant traction after the Gambia became the third country on the continent to announce its withdrawal from The Hague-based tribunal.

The move follows similar announcements from Burundi and South Africa, who informed the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, of their decision to quit the court last week, making them the first countries to begin the year-long exit process in the court’s 18-year history.

Burundi’s parliament has claimed the court is merely “a political tool used by [foreign] powers to remove whoever they want from power on the African continent”.

The Guardian

SA’s exit from ICC has ripple effect in Africa

South Africa’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court has spurred on other African countries to follow suit, with Kenya the latest to pull out of the institution.

Pretoria announced its decision to withdraw from the ICC on Friday and was followed by Burundi on Saturday.

Last year there was a dispute about Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir visiting South Africa despite his being the subject of an ICC arrest warrant over alleged war crimes.

The Kenyan cabinet is finalising a decision to leave the ICC after the country was criticised for prosecuting President Uhuru Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto and four other leaders for the 2007 post-election violence. The case crumbled before the ICC last year and the Kenyan leaders were acquitted.


China’s model of economic development is becoming more popular in Africa than America’s

More African countries are looking East for inspiration on how to grow and manage their economies. According to a survey by Afrobarometer, China is the second-most popular international presence on the continent, only slightly behind the United States. “China rivals the United States in influence and popularity as a development model,” the report, released today (pdf), concluded.

About 30% of 56,000 people surveyed in 36 African countries ranked the US as the most popular model for national development, compared to 24% who ranked China first.