News Briefs 30 April 2020:

Southern Africa Focus


Zimbabwe’s opposition youth leader arrested

A main opposition MDC Alliance youth leader in Zimbabwe has been arrested and has appeared in the Harare Magistrate’s Court on criminal nuisance charges.

This as the crackdown against opposition and human rights activists continues in the country.

Last week a coalition of civil society groups said it is engaging liberation movements in the SADC region, including the ANC, to put a stop to the ruling Zanu PF’s crackdown.

Meanwhile, the trial of Harare West MDC Alliance MP Joana Mamombe and two other party youth leaders Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova has begun in the Harare Magistrate’s Court.

eNCA 30 April 2021

Zimbabwean authorities order NGO to close its doors

Zimbabwean authorities have ordered a non-governmental organisation to shut shop, resurfacing fears that the state is targeting NGOs it believes are pushing a political agenda.

Connect, a family therapy and counselling training organisation based in the Mutasa district in Manicaland, was told to close its doors.

Government authorities in Manicaland delivered a letter to the organisation on Monday to inform them that their operations should be stopped.

“You are required to stop operations with immediate effect,” read part of the letter.

TimesLive 28 April 2021


eSwatini’s economy risk crashing [Business Africa]

The Kingdom of eSwatini is carving a path to a private-led economy. An economy at risk of crashing if it does not embrace crucial economic reforms. For a while now, the Kingdom has been struggling to attract investments. But the covid-19 pandemic seem to have presented the opportunity it needs to restructure the local economy. That’s why late last year, eSwatini unveiled an economic recovery plan to get it out of the woods.

The Kingdom of eSwatini is expecting big things from its ambitious post-Covid-19 economic recovery plan

Managers of this small landlord monarchy in Southern Africa are hopeful that the plan will jolt the economy into a much stronger one after the pandemic, compared to its neighbors in the region.

The Post COVID-19 Economic Recovery Plan released by officials detailed its focus on 8 sectors of the liSwati economy, amongst which business, agriculture, tourism and environment, mining, but also energy and water.

Africa News 29 April 2021

Eswatini names preferred bidder for its Solar PV Projects tender

The Eswatini Energy Regulatory Authority (ESERA) officially announced the Globeleq and Sturdee Energy Consortium as the preferred bidder for its solar PV projects.

Globeleq and its consortium partner, Sturdee Energy Southern Africa, have been awarded preferred bidder status for two 15MWac projects in the first tranche of the Kingdom of Eswatini’s procurement programme for new renewable generation capacity.

ESERA officially released the intention to award notice on 14 April 2021 after evaluation of the bids submitted in November 2020. The tender was originally launched in March 2020.

ESI Africa 22 April 2021

Democratic Republic of Congo

DR Congo’s Tshisekedi Vows ‘Radical Measures’ Against Eastern Militias

Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi vowed Thursday to implement “radical measures” against armed groups in the country’s east that have killed thousands of civilians and set tens of thousands more to flight.

“I am simply drawing up effective solutions that will allow us to reduce this crisis in the east once and for all,” Tshisekedi said at a press conference in Kinshasa with visiting European Council chief Charles Michel.

Although he did not go into further detail, the president’s comments follow his newly-installed prime minister’s trailing of a possible “state of security emergency” for the violence-wracked region.

EWN 29 April 2021

‘Relentless’ violence worsening plight of children in Ituri province

A recent spike in inter-community violence in the eastern province of Ituri in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is worsening the plight of children there, the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, said on Monday, urging greater international support.

UNICEF and humanitarian organizations have repeatedly warned about the violence, which includes machete attacks and sexual assaults. 

A desperate humanitarian crisis

Jean Metenier, UNICEF’s Senior Coordinator for Eastern DRC, said the agency will continue to raise the alarm to prevent the world from becoming numb to what he described as a desperate humanitarian crisis.

UN News 26 April 2021

Central and the Horn of Africa

Somalia president backtracks on plan to extend his term

Somalian President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed has said he’s prepared to hold elections, after a controversial plan to extend his mandate without a vote drew international condemnation and stoked violence in the Horn of Africa nation.

Mohamed, also known as Farmajo, called for urgent talks on the return to a September 17 agreement between the federal and regional governments to hold an indirect election.

“As a government, we have always been ready to implement, without any preconditions” the September accord, Mohamed said in a statement on Tuesday night.

The announcement came after the US and the EU criticised the April 14 decision to extend his and legislators’ mandates by two years, and threatened sanctions and other actions against Somalia. The backlash emboldened an opposition which, before the extension, had asked Mohamed not to seek re-election as a condition for talks on the voting to progress.

Business Day 28 April 2021

Somalia Provisional Constitution: Discussions of Politics, Religion, And Women

In August 2012, Somali delegations in the capital, Mogadishu, overwhelmingly approved the country’s third constitution since its independence in 1960. The atmosphere at the time was festive and full of hope, looking forward to peace for a country that has suffered so much hardship. Today, after more than eight years, Somali leaders still have not agreed on the completion of clauses and the date of the popular referendum for the 143-article constitution. Critics describe this stagnation as resulting from the immaturity of Somali politicians, and political turmoil, including the controversial decision to extend President Farmajo’s mandate by two years.

Despite the slowdown in the political process around the constitution, public discussions are still ongoing. In a January 2017 poll of 1,422 Somalis over the age of 18, 95% answered that they were aware of the new constitution. The debate is split between politicians: liberal, open-minded, and more focused on constitutional issues related to power, influence, and wealth sharing; and the general public: closer to the conservatives and more focused on issues of religion and women.

International Policy Digest 29 April 2021

Central Africa Republic

Displaced Children in Central African Republic Risk Forced Recruitment, Gender-Based Violence

Conflict and violence have displaced 370,000 children throughout the Central African Republic. The U.N. children’s fund says among them are at least 163,000 children who were forced to flee widespread violence in the run-up to and following December’s contested general election.

Protection is one of the most urgent needs as internally displaced children face many dangers from violence, armed groups, COVID-19 and associated risks.

Speaking from the C.A.R. capital, Bangui, UNICEF Representative Fran Equiza tells VOA insecurity in the country is increasing as armed groups become ever more violent. One of his major concerns, he says, is the risk of children being forcibly recruited by armed groups.

“The uprooted kids are limited and sometimes, some of them absolutely with no parents around makes them extremely vulnerable to these movements that we have seen in the last few months to be increasing in the country,” Equiza said.

Voice of America 29 April 2021

Central African Republic militia leader dies from injuries, say rebels

A Central African Republic militia leader blacklisted by the United States and the U.N. for human rights abuses including rape and torture has died from injuries he sustained in November, his armed group said on Friday.

Sidiki Abass, leader of the Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation or 3R armed group, died on March 25 at a health centre in Kambakota, around 320km north of the capital Bangui, according to a statement signed by “General Bobbo”, who described himself as the new leader of the rebel force.

The country has been mired in violence since a coalition of mostly northern and predominantly Muslim rebels known as Seleka, or “alliance” in the Sango language, seized power in March 2013.

UN News 03 April 2021


Sudan’s basic income scheme aims to ease economic pain

For Intisar Altayib, who ekes out a living drawing henna tattoos in Khartoum, soaring prices in Sudan mean running up tabs at local stores and cutting back on evening feasts during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

She is one of millions struggling through an economic crisis that has deepened as Sudan tries to emerge from decades of isolation and conflict. Inflation has risen to more than 340% and there are shortages of everything from power to medicines.

To ease the pain of reforms, the government is introducing a donor-funded scheme that aims to provide a temporary $5 basic monthly income to 80% of its population of 43 million.

The roll-out, which began in February, is a test for the transitional civilian-military partnership that is due to govern Sudan until 2023. Many Sudanese complain they have not seen the benefits of an uprising, triggered by the deteriorating economy, that overthrew former President Omar al-Bashir two years ago.

The Arab Weekly 30 April 2021

Russia Refutes Reports on Suspension of Military Agreements with Sudan

The Russian Embassy in Khartoum dismissed as “unfounded” media reports that said Sudan has suspended military agreements signed with Moscow by the regime of ousted President Omar al-Bashir.

In a statement on Facebook page on Thursday, the embassy said it has not received any notification from Sudanese officials about the alleged suspension.

It stressed that such reports aim to harm the traditionally friendly bilateral relations between Russia and Sudan.

The former regime had agreed with Moscow to establish a logistics support center for Russia’s navy in Sudan.

In November 2020, the Russian government published a document of the agreement, stating that the maximum number of personnel at the facility in Sudan would not exceed 300, and no more than four Russian ships would deploy there at the same time.

Asharq Al-Awsat 30 April 2021

South Sudan

UN condemns attacks on humanitarian workers in South Sudan

The UN humanitarian agency on Thursday condemned recent violent attacks by youth groups targeting relief workers in South Sudan.

Alain Noudehou, the UN humanitarian coordinator in South Sudan, said that staff from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and a non-governmental organization (NGO) were on Wednesday physically assaulted by youth in separate incidents in Torit town, Eastern Equatoria in the southern part of the country.

“Humanitarian organizations are working across South Sudan to deliver much-needed assistance to vulnerable communities. Attacks against them are completely unacceptable and must stop,” Noudehou said in a statement issued in Juba.

He further added that on April 24 in Jamjang in Ruweng Administrative Area in the country’s northern region, some youth entered an international charity compound and physically attacked staff, resulting in multiple injuries, noting that one staff member suffered serious injuries and was airlifted to a hospital.

CTGN Africa 30 April 2021

Truth about shooting will help diocese in South Sudan, bishop-designate says

While Bishop-designate Christian Carlassare already has forgiven his attackers, he said finding the truth about why he was shot in the legs at his home in Rumbek, South Sudan, will help achieve reconciliation.

The Italian-born bishop-designate, 43, was responding to news that three local priests were among the 12 people arrested for their possible involvement in the attack April 26. Local reports say lay members of the local church community were also among those arrested.

“Only the truth, even if it is painful, will be able to point out what choices we will have to make. It is a great suffering for the church, perhaps necessary for building something on a clean foundation,” he said in an interview April 29 with Avvenire, the daily newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference.

One of the priests who was arrested was Father John Matiang, who had administered the Diocese of Rumbek for the past nine years. The diocese had been without a bishop since the death in 2011 of Bishop Cesare Mazzolari, an Italian-born Comboni missionary, like the new bishop-designate.

Catholic News Service 29 April 2021

North Africa

Western Sahara

Western Sahara demands UN seat, blasts France and Spain

Western Sahara’s foreign minister Mohamed Salem Ould Salek on Monday demanded a UN seat for the disputed territory and accused France and Spain of impeding a referendum on self-determination.

The status of Western Sahara, which the United Nations classifies as a “non-self-governing territory”, has for decades pitted Morocco against the pro-independence Polisario Front.

“The Sahrawi state claims its seat at the UN,” said Ould Salek, on behalf the republic declared by the Polisario in 1976.

The republic, as a founding member of the African Union, “demands its rightful place” among world nations, he told a news conference in Algiers, allies of the Polisario.

France24 05 April 2021

The White House is reviewing Western Sahara recognition. Here’s what’s at stake

Just weeks before leaving office, President Donald Trump announced a resumption of diplomatic ties between Israel and Morocco, one of five Arab countries to recognize Israel in a series of historic deals. Unlike the other countries, Morocco has not yet resumed full diplomatic ties with Israel. Full normalization between Israel and Morocco hangs in the balance as the White House reviews a key component of the deal.

Morocco agreed to the deal on the condition that the U.S. recognize Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony claimed by both Morocco and the Sahrawi people, who are indigenous to the region. The leadership of the Polisario Front, the movement seeking independence for Western Sahara, is based in Algeria, along with thousands of Sahrawi refugees.

Trump’s decision made the U.S. the first Western nation to recognize Moroccan sovereignty over the territory, raising questions about how the U.S. might handle other contested territories such as Crimea and even Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Jewish Insider 23 April 2021

International Affairs Brief


Abbas delays Palestinian parliamentary polls, blaming Israel

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has postponed planned parliamentary elections next month amid a dispute over voting in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem and splits in his Fatah party.

Abbas, 85, blamed Israel for uncertainty about whether it would allow the legislative election to proceed in Jerusalem as well as in the occupied West Bank and Gaza on Friday.

The decision came three months after he announced the first national elections in 15 years in what was widely seen as a response to criticism of the democratic legitimacy of Palestinian institutions, including his own presidency.

The outcome of an election could see gains for Hamas, which controls Gaza.

Abbas’s chief domestic rival, Hamas had fought a well-organised campaign to defeat a similarly divided Fatah in 2006.

Aljazeera 30 April 2021

EU calls on Israel to facilitate polls in Palestine

The EU on Friday urged Israel to enable elections across the entire Palestinian territory and expressed regret over delayed vote.

“The decision to postpone the planned Palestinian elections, including the legislative elections originally scheduled for 22 May, is deeply disappointing,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a written statement.

He reiterated the bloc’s “call on Israel to facilitate the holding of such elections across all of the Palestinian territory, including in East Jerusalem.”

Borrell also called on Palestinian authorities to set a new date for polls “without delay” and encouraged all Palestinian political actors to resume talks.

“We firmly believe that strong, inclusive, accountable and functioning democratic Palestinian institutions based on respect for the rule of law and human rights are vital for the Palestinian people,” he added, stressing the EU’s commitment towards a two-state solution.

Anadolu Agency 30 April 2021


Myanmar conflict spills into Thailand as villagers flee

Thousands of ethnic Karen villagers in Myanmar are poised to cross into Thailand if, as expected, fighting intensifies between the Myanmar army and Karen insurgents, joining those who have already escaped the turmoil that followed a February 1 coup.

The UN humanitarian office said on Friday that about 56,000 people have been displaced by conflict in Myanmar this year while another UN agency warned that the coronavirus and the political crisis could push nearly half the population into poverty.

Karen rebels and the Myanmar army have clashed near the Thai border in the most intense fighting in the area in 25 years, in the wake of a military coup that ousted an elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

Villagers on both sides of the border have been forced from their homes.

“People say the Burmese will come and shoot us, so we fled here,” Chu Wah, a Karen villager who crossed over to Thailand with his family this week from the Ee Thu Hta displacement camp in Myanmar, said. “I had to flee across the river,” Chu Wah said, referring to the Salween river that forms the border in the area.

Business Day 30 April 2021

EU ready to help restore democracy to Myanmar – high representative

The European Union is ready to offer its support to all parties to help restore democracy in Myanmar, the bloc’s high representative told ASEAN states on Friday.

Southeast Asian leaders said after an emergency ASEAN summit last week that they had reached consensus with Myanmar’s junta on ending violence there. read more

“The European Union stands ready to support ASEAN… in facilitating a constructive dialogue with all key stakeholders with a view to bringing Myanmar/Burma back to its democratic path,” the high representative said in a statement published on Friday.

An activist monitoring group says more than 750 people have been killed by security forces in Myanmar since army generals unleashed lethal force in the face of sustained protests against their Feb. 1 coup.

Reuters 30 April 2021