News Briefs 28 September 2018

Democratic Republic of Congo

At UN, Joseph Kabila Vows ‘Peaceful & Credible’ DRC Vote

Congolese President Joseph Kabila pledged at the United Nations on Tuesday that elections planned for December will go ahead, promising to take steps to ensure the vote is peaceful and credible.

In power for two decades, Kabila this year bowed to international pressure and agreed to step aside, allowing a new candidate to stand in the December 23 vote in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Addressing the General Assembly, Kabila said that despite the challenges of holding elections in his vast country, “I now reaffirm the irreversible nature of our decision to hold the elections as planned at the end of this year.”

“Everything will be done in order to ensure that these elections are peaceful and credible,” said Kabila.


DRC boycotts 2 UN events because it wasn’t consulted

Democratic Republic of Congo is boycotting two planned UN events focusing on the central African nation because it was not consulted on the agenda or expected outcome, the president’s top adviser said on Wednesday.

Barnabe Kikaya Bin Karubi told The Associated Press the government was informed that as a result the meetings had been cancelled.

He said Thursday’s planned meeting, hosted by Germany and UN peacekeeping chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix, was for special envoys on central Africa, “but we all know that the main issue there was going to be the Democratic Republic of Congo”.

A second ministerial meeting on Friday organised by the United Nations was “to review all aspects of problems facing the DRC,” Kikaya Bin Karubi said.

“The problem is that these meetings were planned without consultations with the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo,” he said. “We are of the opinion that to organise such a meeting, we must give our input … so we know what are the objectives, what are we going to achieve.”



World Bank to provides financing to Somalia for first time in 27 years

The World Bank is providing direct financing to Somalia’s government for the first time in 27 years, calling it a “milestone” in the reconstruction of the Horn of Africa nation long shattered by fighting, according to a statement.

The bank’s board of directors has approved R1.1 billion in investment programmes to help Somalia’s federal government “mobilise and redistribute the resources needed to rebuild the country after three decades of conflict”.


EU approves 1st budget support to Somalia as trust grows

The European Union says it has approved $116m in its first-ever budget support to Somalia’s government in the latest sign of confidence in a country long shattered by conflict.

The EU announcement comes a day after the World Bank said it would provide $80m in direct financing to Somalia’s government for the first time in 27 years, calling it a “milestone.”

The EU statement says “this combined response opens entirely new opportunities” in Somalia’s nation-building and will help to increase local authorities’ role in providing basic services.

The money from the EU, which calls itself the largest donor to the Horn of Africa nation, will be disbursed until 2021.


Central African Republic

A tribunal to ensure war crimes are prosecuted

Human rights organizations have for years urged a resolution of the war crimes cases in Central African Republic. The Special Criminal Court is expected to begin its work in this regard next month.

“The special court is a big hope for us. Long, agonizing years of impunity will finally come to an end,” Flavien Mbata, the justice minister of the Central African Republic (CAR), said in an exclusive DW interview.

The worst human rights violations, such as the massacre and displacement of people and plunder during the ethnic and religious hostilities between 2003 and 2013 has gone unpunished.

“Most of the murderers and their supporters are still walking around freely in Bangui and other cities or living unchallenged in neighbouring countries or in Europe,” said Fernand Mande-Djapou, a human rights activist.


UN Report: Peace Impossible in CAR Without Justice for Victims

A United Nations human rights expert warns true peace in Central African Republic will not be possible without justice for the hundreds of thousands of victims who have suffered violence and human rights abuse during more than five years of civil war.

War between the Muslim Seleka and mainly Christian anti-Balaka groups in Central African Republic (CAR) has taken a heavy toll. The U.N. refugee agency reports nearly 582,000 people have fled as refugees to neighbouring countries and more than 687,000 are internally displaced.

The Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in CAR says some crucial steps have been taken in establishing a system of transitional justice and peace in the country.

Marie-Therese Keita Bocoum welcomes these moves but said the success of ongoing reforms can only be assured if they are based on justice for the victims. She said people in the country are still suffering from lack of consultation at all levels.

Voice of America


Sudan: UN Rights Body Should Ensure Robust Next Steps

Sudan’s human rights situation has not improved.  Armed conflicts in Darfur since 2003, and in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile since 2011, are not over. While evidence suggests the government has stopped indiscriminate bombing, its forces still attack, burn and loot civilian property, forcing thousands to flee their homes.  To date, Sudan has taken no meaningful steps to ensure justice for victims of atrocities committed during these long-running conflicts.

Across the country, government authorities continue to stifle dissent and criticism. Security forces routinely use excessive violence to break up protests. In January 2018 in West Darfur, they used live ammunition against students, injuring several and killing at least one. There has been no accountability for the injuries and deaths of over 170 protesters in Wad Madani in September 2013.

Police and security forces continue to disperse protests by arbitrarily detaining protesters and activists. Some detainees have been held for months without charges. All detainees are at risk of torture, and many released detainees reported torture and other ill-treatment. To date, Sudan has not investigated, far less prosecuted national security officials implicated in such crimes.

Human Rights Watch

Sudan accepts UN humanitarian proposal for the Two-Areas

Sudan’s Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC) Thursday agreed UN initiative to deliver humanitarian assistance to civilians in the rebel-controlled areas in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan states.

In a press conference held in Khartoum, HAC General Commissioner Ahmed Mohamed Adam made the government official declaration adding they received the initiative earlier this year for the first time and was renewed last June.

He further said that they delayed their response because they were waiting for the SPLM-N’s response to the U.S. proposal which is part of the initiative.

Khartoum refuses the delivery of relief from outside the country to the rebel areas as it is part of the rebel demands. Also, the government wants to oversight food distribution in the rebel-held areas fearing that rebel fighters benefit from it.

Sudan Tribune

South Sudan

South Sudan president orders to release PoWs and detainees

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Thursday ordered to release all the prisoners of war, and detainees in line with the revitalized peace agreement

In his Republican Order N° 17, President Kiir directed the Chief of Defence to release the prisoners of War (PoWs) and detainees immediately under the supervision of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

In his decision, Kiir stressed the need to register and hand over the released Pows and detainees to a third party (the ICRC).

The presidential decision comes in line with Chapter II (Permanent Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements) article 6 of section one dedicated to the permanent ceasefire.

Manawa Peter Gatkuoth SPLM-IO Deputy Chairperson of the National Committee for Information and Public Relations said they had already released all the PoWs.

Sudan Tribune

South Sudan civil war death toll at almost 400,000 people

The latest death toll estimates are far higher than previous versions and more than the conflict in Syria, according to a new study.

South Sudan’s civil war has caused the deaths of at least 382,900 people – far higher than previous estimates and more than the conflict in Syria, according to a new study.

The statistical research carried out by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine university was published Tuesday after being commissioned by the US Institute for Peace in partnership with the US State Department.

Researchers measured both the number of deaths that were a direct result of the violence as well as deaths caused by the increased risk of disease and reduced access to healthcare.

The Citizen

Western Sahara

UNSG Personal Envoy for Western Sahara meets with a Saharawi delegation in New York

Personal Envoy of the Secretary General of the United Nations for Western Sahara, Mr. Horst Kohler has received a Saharawi delegation on the sidelines of the 73rd session of the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York.

During the meeting, Mr. Kohler informed the Saharawi delegation on the proposals and steps he intends to take in the near future in order to boost the political process sponsored by the United Nations, to a new round of direct negotiations between the Frente POLISARIO and Morocco before the end of this year.

For its part, the Saharawi delegation welcomed the efforts made by Mr. Kohler, voicing at the same time, POLISARIO’s commitment to cooperate fully with the Personal Envoy, in direct negotiations with Morocco under the auspices of the United Nations, as requested by the Security Council in order to reach a just, peaceful and lasting solution to the conflict in Western Sahara, ensuring the right of the Saharawi people to self-determination and independence.

Sahara Press Service

UN: US diplomacy pays more attention to the Western Sahara question

On the side-lines of the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly, David Hale, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, met with Horst Köhler in New York on Tuesday.

The meeting between the two men was held behind closed doors, as indicated by the department of Mike Pompeo in a note to the press.

This is the second meeting of its kind in a few weeks between the UN Secretary-General’s personal envoy for Western Sahara and a senior official from the Trump administration. On August the 8th, only a few hours before Köhler’s briefing at the Security Council, he met with John Bolton, the US National Security Adviser.

On September the 17th in Washington, David Hale also received the Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nasser Bourita.


No Food for Hospital Patients As Broke Swaziland Government Leaves Supplier Bills Unpaid

The public hospital in Swaziland’s capital city Mbabane has run out of food for patients because the government has not paid its bills to suppliers.

It is the latest in the long line of cases of the kingdom’s health services grinding to a halt because of government mismanagement of the economy.

The Times of Swaziland reported on Wednesday (26 September 2018) that patients only had apples and juice at Mbabane Government Hospital. It said bills to food suppliers had not been paid. It was unclear how much money was owed.


Police Turn Swaziland City Into ‘Warzone’ As National Strike Enters Second Day

Police in Swaziland turned the city of Manzini into a ‘battlefield’ and a ‘warzone’ on the second day of the national strike in the kingdom.

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, the kingdom’s absolute monarch, said the bus rank in Swaziland’s major commercial city was ‘turned into a warzone as stun grenades, teargas, teasers and rubber bullets became the order of the day’.

It happened on Wednesday (19 September 2019) as workers across Swaziland continued their protests against poor pay and other working conditions. They are on a three-day stoppage coordinated by the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA).



US Leans on Zimbabwe Over Media, Security Laws – US Diplomat

The United States is pressing Zimbabwe to change laws restricting media freedom and anti-government protests, the US’s top diplomat for Africa told Reuters on Wednesday amid calls by the country’s new leader for US sanctions to be lifted.

“The Zimbabweans absolutely understand exactly the US point of view,” said Tibor Nagy, who was recently sworn in as US assistant secretary of state for Africa.

The laws Nagy referred to include the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which restrict media freedoms and bars foreign correspondents from working in Zimbabwe full time. The other is the Public Order and Security Act, which is used by the security agencies to prohibit anti-government protests and arrest pro-opposition activists.


Africa in General

Eswatini King wants Africa to play bigger role in UN

Eswatini King Mswati III has called for Africa to play a bigger role in the work of the United Nations, pointing out that as most of the world body’s peacekeeping missions are based on the continent.

The king made his call on Wednesday during the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) annual debate in New York.

“Africa calls for the allocation of not less than two permanent seats, with all the prerogatives and privileges of permanent membership – including the right of veto; and five non-permanent seats, in the United Nations Security Council,” stated the monarch of the tiny Southern African kingdom previously known as Swaziland.

Turning to development, he said that with strong national leadership and international cooperation, achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), ensuring social welfare, gender equality, and tackling many other issues in Africa was within reach.


Pro-democracy activists jailed ahead of DRC vote

Four pro-democracy activists in DR Congo have been sentenced to 12 months behind bars for insulting the president and another seven are being held in secret detention, their lawyers told AFP on Wednesday.

The four were arrested in late December as they were going from house to house, urging people to join a march organised by the Catholic church to demand President Joseph Kabila step down.

“The magistrates court on Tuesday sentenced four activists from the Filimbi movement to 12 months’ jail for insulting the head of state,” their lawyer Jacquemain Shabani told AFP.

The four — Carbone Beni, Mino Bopomi, Grace Thiunza and Cedric Kalonji — are members of Filimbi, a grassroots pro-democracy citizen movement involved in the effort to mobilise support for a nationwide rally last New Year’s Eve.


Zim’s Mnangagwa promises to fight corruption, debt

Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa gave his first state-of-the-nation address on Tuesday, promising to fight corruption, address the country’s ballooning external and local debt and meet people’s expectations of his administration.

Opposition MDC-Alliance members if Parliament (MPs) continued the tradition of walking out of the address, and walked out of Mnangagwa’s address.

The tradition gained traction during the late Morgan Tsvangirai’s tenure as MDC-T president, and was meant to show the then president Robert Mugabe that he was illegally in office after “stealing” the vote from the MDC-T in 2013.

Despite the walkout, Mnangagwa continued with his first address as president.