News Briefs 3 June 2022

Southern Africa Focus


Trouble Ahead in Zimbabwe

Conditions for the people of Zimbabwe continue to go from bad to worse. Triple digit inflation shows no signs of slowing.  Over half of the country lives in poverty.  Its corrupt government lurches from disinterest in the population’s pain to rosy projections for growth based on pure fantasy to clumsy interventions like the recent short-lived edict banning banks from lending.

Politically, the merger of the ruling party and senior military leadership has long been complete, and they have become inextricable from the state itself. But because Zimbabweans, in the form of independent journalists, opposition politicians, and local activists, refuse to give up on their efforts to hold government accountable for its actions, state-sponsored campaigns of repression and political violence continue. In an effort to give the intimidation a veneer of legality, the country’s leaders are now working to dismantle civil society, pursuing draconian legislation aimed at private, voluntary organizations (PVOs) that would, in the words of a network of mostly African human rights defenders, provide government with “unrestricted power to deregister, target, and harass PVOs deemed critical of the government”. Embracing irony, the same government that sustains itself with illicit transnational cartels justifies its efforts by pretending they are necessary to meet the requirements of the Financial Action Task Force. The shamelessness is unsurprising, but the PVO legislation is another important indicator that there will be nothing remotely resembling a level playing field as the 2023 elections draw near.

Council on Foreign Relations 1 June 2022

13 000 arrested for immigration-related offences

Zimbabwe arrested about 13 000 people for immigration-related offences during the first four months of 2022, state media reported on Sunday.

Quoting figures from the Department of Immigration, The Sunday Mail said most of those arrested were penalised for breaching the section of Zimbabwe’s Immigration Act that prohibits entry into the country through undesignated ports of entry.

“We have managed to arrest 12 941 illegal immigrants so far,” the department is quoted as saying.

This is about 7% of the more than 187 000 people who entered Zimbabwe between January and April this year, according to statistics from the immigration department.

IOL 1 June 2022


Financial resilience in small states: Lessons from Eswatini

Small states are particularly exposed to the financial impacts of shocks, varying from natural disasters to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and man-made events such as the Ukraine war. The shocks disproportionally and recurrently affect small states due to their peculiarities. They have small populations and economic bases combined with geographically concentrated economies, which makes them particularly vulnerable to shocks. They tend to be geographically isolated, which creates challenges in mobilizing resources to respond to shocks. Furthermore, their growth trajectories tend to rely on few sectors (undiversified) or large neighboring countries. These dynamics highlight the central importance of strengthening financial resilience in small states when driving toward development and poverty alleviation.

Eswatini, a landlocked country within South Africa, reflects these challenges in Africa.  Increasingly, like many other small states globally, Eswatini is struggling to manage the impacts of compounding shocks that spike inflation, drain the budget and current account, impede GDP growth, and increase debt and fiscal deficits. To take a sobering walk back through time (Figure 1): in 2015/16, an El Niño drought led to one-third of the population facing severe food insecurity, cost the government 19 percent of its annual expenditure (equivalent to 7 percent of GDP), and spiked inflation to 7.8 percent. In 2018/19, drought continued to grip the southern Africa region, in particular South Africa, which drove customs duties in the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) upon which the government of eSwatini (GoeS) relies for revenue, forcing the GoeS to raise additional debt. In 2020, the global COVID-19 pandemic struck, to which the GoeS mobilized a significant response package, estimated at $67 million, or 1.5 percent of its GDP. Today, in 2022, as the war in Ukraine continues, Eswatini faces current account, reserves, fiscal, and inflation pressures. Each of these compound shocks depletes budgetary resources and draws civil servants’ time and attention away from service delivery toward crisis response. To push the poverty rate lower than where it stubbornly stands at 28 percent, strengthening financial resilience needs to become a priority. And it has.

Brookings 27 May 2022

Pupils leave dysfunctional eSwatini schools for SA

Many parents near the border have sent their children to South African schools after the pandemic and mass protests disrupted local classes.

Sanele Dlamini, 19, wakes up with the roosters to prepare for school. Political unrest in eSwatini and the effects of Covid-19 have battered an already ailing education system. He must leave his bed early because his school is on the other side of the border, in South Africa.

Dlamini used to go to Motjane High School near his home and did not have to get going at about the same time chickens climb down from their perch. But now he has to walk for roughly 10km to the border before taking transport to Holeka Secondary School in Mpumalanga’s Gert Sibande District.

The outbreak of Covid-19 prompted eSwatini’s former Prime Minister Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini to declare a national emergency on 17 March 2020. The following day, the ministry of education closed schools. Except for a few weeks months later when pupils in form 3 (grade 10) and form 5 (grade 12) went to classes for a few days in a week to prepare for external exams, schools remained closed.

New Frame 11 May 2022

Democratic Republic of Congo

Security Council urged to support efforts to end M23 insurgency in DR Congo

The recent resurgence of the M23 armed group in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) constitutes a serious threat to peace, security and stability in the region, and urgent action towards curbing the violence is needed, a senior UN official told the Security Council on Tuesday.

“It is imperative that this Council lend its full weight to ongoing regional efforts to defuse the situation and bring an end to the M23 insurgency, once and for all,” said Martha Pobee, an Assistant Secretary-General for the UN’s political affairs and peace operations, covering Africa.

Civilians are paying a heavy price in the violence, she said, citing information from the UN humanitarian affairs office, OCHA.  Some 75,000 people were displaced in fighting last week in North Kivu province, while another 11,577 have crossed the border into Uganda.

Two peacekeepers with the UN’s Mission in the country, MONUSCO, suffered minor injuries in the hostilities, while at least 16 Congolese soldiers were killed and 22 wounded.

UN News 31 May 2022

Anti-Rwanda protest in DR Congo over alleged rebel ‘backing’

Hundreds have staged an anti-Rwanda protest in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) capital Kinshasa, over Kigali’s alleged support to the M23, a notorious rebel group, as tensions between the two neighbours grow.

During Monday’s demonstration, protesters also called for the expulsion of the Rwandan ambassador and brandished nationalistic slogans on banners.

“Congo is our country … not a single centimetre will go to Rwanda,” read one.

Relations have been strained since the mass arrival in the eastern DRC of Rwandan Hutus accused of slaughtering Tutsis during the 1994 Rwanda genocide.

But relations began to thaw after DRC President Felix Tshisekedi took office in 2019, but the recent resurgence of M23 violence has reignited tensions, exacerbated by the detention of two Rwandan soldiers in Congo.

Aljazeera 31 May 2022

East Africa and the Horn


What US re-entry into Somalia means for the Horn of Africa and for bigger powers

The US has announced it will resume a limited military presence in Somalia. The former administration withdrew troops from the country in 2020. The mission of the American soldiers is still what it has been for the last 15 years: to advise and assist Somali forces. US troops will not be directly involved in conflict. Their number, 450 to 500, is smaller than the last deployment.

The decision to redeploy in Somalia might appear to be surprising, for two important reasons. First, US president Joe Biden promised during his campaign to avoid the “forever wars” against terror lasting since 2002. None of these wars were ever fully won and remain unpopular with the US electorate. It is also surprising in the light of moves to restructure the US military to meet a threat from China.

What better explains this decision, however, is the renewed emphasis on the old rivalry with Russia since Russia’s Ukrainian intervention.

The Conversation 30 May 2022

US troops back in Somalia to fight al-Shabab

The US’ decision to redeploy 500 troops to Somalia to help in the fight against militant Islamists is a clear sign of its support for new President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.

The redeployment came after former US President Donald Trump ordered the withdrawal of the troops in December 2020 following years of strained relations with his predecessor Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmajo”, who was voted out of office by Somalia’s lawmakers.

The US considered him to be a failure both in terms of governance and the campaign against Islamist militant groups al-Shabab and the much smaller Somali branch of the Islamic State (IS) group.

The announcement of what US Africa Command (Africom), describes as a “small, persistent US military presence” will come as a relief to Somalis who have experienced a surge of Islamist attacks since their departure – and to the US troops in neighbouring Djibouti who went in and out of Somalia to fill the security vacuum created by Mr Trump’s decision.

BBC Africa 31 May 2022

Central African Republic

UN rights chief hails CAR decision to end death penalty

The United Nations rights chief has hailed a decision by lawmakers in the Central African Republic to end capital punishment in the country.

No executions have been carried out in CAR since 1981, and last Friday lawmakers approved new legislation making death sentences illegal.

“I commend the adoption of a law in the Central African Republic abolishing the death penalty and encourage President Faustin-Archange Touadera to promulgate it,” Michelle Bachelet, UN high commissioner for human rights said in a statement on Wednesday.

“The death penalty is incompatible with fundamental tenets of human rights and dignity,” she said.

Since 2013, Central African Republic, which is the second-least developed nation in the world according to the UN, has been racked by civil war.

Aljazeera 1 June 2022


Sudan’s military junta starts releasing political prisoners, lifts state of emergency

The African Union (AU), Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission (Unitams) say the release of political prisoners in Sudan is a positive step forward and will address the impasse created by last year’s coup.

The military seized power in Sudan on 25 October 2021, toppling a transitional government composed of civilians and military officials. The new rulers declared a state of emergency that granted expanded power to the security forces.

In a statement, the AU, IGAD and Unitams – monikered the “Trilateral Mechanism” – commended the authorities in Sudan for lifting the state of emergency put in place by the military-led sovereign council soon after the coup.

They said: “The AU-IGAD-UN Trilateral Mechanism welcomes the authorities’ decision to lift the state of emergency and the release of the political detainees as a positive step to create the conditions needed for reaching a peaceful resolution for the current political impasse following the 25 October coup.”

News24 31 May 2022

Hundreds demonstrate against the UN in Sudan

Hundreds of Sudanese protesters rallied Wednesday in front of the United Nations mission in the capital, Khartoum, to call for its dismissal.

The protestors included supporters of Islamist groups critical of efforts by UN envoy Volker Perthes to resolve the political crisis in the country since last year’s military coup.

“Volker must leave today, before tomorrow. If he doesn’t, we will make him leave by force. We will not plead, write reports or speeches [to the UN]. It will be by force, by direct force”, threatened Sudanese protester, Mohammed Sayed.

The rallies came as the UN Security Council is considering extending the mission’s mandate beyond June 3rd.

News24 1 June 2022

South Sudan

Execution-Style Killings Emblematic of Impunity by South Sudan Army

On May 25, 16-year-old Justin Lisok Lomuresuk, a primary school student from Kiri boma of Kajokeji in South Sudan’s Central Equatoria state, was cutting wood when he found the decomposing body of a soldier tied to a tree. He told his siblings, who then reported it to local authorities.

The next day, while villagers, local officials, and police gathered at the scene, around 25 soldiers arrived in a pickup truck and on motorcycles. A commanding officer ordered Lomuresuk, his 18-year-old brother, Saviour Yamba Lomuresuk, and a 38-year-old neighbor, Taka Iga Wani to sit down, then four soldiers sprayed them with bullets, killing them. The authorities had not questioned the three or anyone else about the suspected crime.  These heinous summary executions appear to be done as a form of collective punishment.

Later that day, soldiers arrested Lomuresuk’s sister Kabang Jeska and took her, along with her two-year-old child, to the army barracks in Wudu town. The soldiers also arrested Yongo Henry, Taban Shadrach, and an unidentified civilian without specifying their offences. On Tuesday evening, officials released Jeska, her baby, and Shadrach, but two other civilians remain in detention without charge or visitation nearly a week later. Relatives worry they could be subjected to torture or other ill-treatment or even forcibly disappeared.

Human Rights Watch 1 June 2022

South Sudan slams Ghana’s decision to back arms embargo

The South Sudanese government has described as “disappointing” Ghana’s decision to vote in favour of the recent renewal of arms embargo by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

The UN Security Council on Thursday last week adopted a resolution to renew for a year, till May 31, 2023, an arms embargo against South Sudan.

Security Council Resolution 2633 (2022) was adopted by a vote of 10 in favour (Albania, Brazil, France, Ghana, Ireland, Mexico, Norway, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States) to none against, with five abstentions (China, Gabon, India, Kenya and the Russian Federation).

South Sudan government, however, applauded China, India, Russia, Gabon and Kenya for not voting for the sanctions on Juba. The five countries abstained from the vote. The resolution to extend the ban through May 2023, drafted by the United States, was passed with 10 out of 15 votes.

Sudan Tribune 29 May 2022

North Africa and the Sahara

Western Sahara

Morocco/Western Sahara: Investigate targeted assault on Sahrawi women activists

The Moroccan authorities must urgently investigate allegations that police and security forces brutally assaulted five Sahrawi women activists, Amnesty International said today. The organization has investigated the circumstances around the attacks, which took place during five separate incidents on 15 and 16 April, in the city of Boujdour in Western Sahara.

Zeinab Babi, Embarka Al Hafidhi, Fatima al-Hafidhi, Oum Al Moumin Al Kharashi and Nasrathum (Hajatna) Babi were targeted after their participation in peaceful protests for Sahrawi self-determination, and after they expressed public support for Sultana Khaya, a prominent Sahrawi activist.  Moroccan police officers and plainclothes security agents beat the women with sticks and punched and kicked them. One woman lost consciousness and required reconstructive surgery on her hand. Two of the women reported that they had been sexually assaulted.

“Five weeks on from these appalling attacks, the Moroccan authorities have yet to lift a finger to investigate. These women have peacefully exercised their right to freedom of expression and assembly and yet they were brutally assaulted, leaving them with cuts, bruises and, in at least one case, broken bones,” said Amna Guellai, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Amnesty International 27 May 2022

The fight goes on over Western Sahara’s status

Located on the northwest coast of Africa and bordering Morocco, Algeria and Mauritania, Western Sahara – with just 500,000 people – has been the subject of a 47-year territorial dispute between the Polisario Front and Morocco.

Endowed with phosphate and fishing waters, the region became a Spanish colony after the Berlin Conference in 1885. After the Spanish withdrawal in 1975, Morocco, under the rule of King Hassan II, annexed (or reclaimed, according to Rabat’s perspective) the territory. Since then, for strategic, economic and political reasons, Western Sahara has become a vital issue for the Moroccan regime. It may be compared to what the One-China principle means for Beijing to a certain extent.

From Algeria, the exiled Polisario Front declared the independence of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic within the 252,000 square kilometers of Western Saharan territory in 1976. Their ensuing war with Morocco was interrupted in 1991, when Rabat agreed to a cease-fire brokered by the United Nations. Tensions, however, have remained as the parties never agreed on a political solution.

Algeria has always defended the independence of Western Sahara and provides the Polisario Front with funding, an operational base and diplomatic support. It opposes what it considers to be Morocco’s annexation. The land border between Morocco and Algeria has been closed since 1994.

GIS Reports Online 16 May 2022