News Briefs 30 March 2018

Civilians die as DRC troops and rebels fight

Ten civilians and a Ugandan militant died when Congolese troops clashed with rebels in the flashpoint town of Beni in Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC’s) troubled east, an army spokesman said on Wednesday.

The incident took place on Tuesday evening when rebels attacked military positions around Beni in North Kivu, Capt Mak Hazukay told AFP.

“We listed 10 dead civilians so far,” he said. A rebel from Uganda’s Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) militia was also killed, he said, adding that fighting was ongoing. Michel Kakule, the lead physician at Beni hospital, told AFP that some of the victims “had gunshot wounds while others had been attacked with machetes”.

Business Day

UN strengthens role of DR Congo mission in elections

The UN Security Council on Tuesday unanimously backed a resolution that tasks the peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo with helping to prepare elections and avoid deadly violence.

France presented the measure that renews the mandate for MONUSCO, the UN’s biggest peacekeeping mission, until March 2019 and emphasizes the need to protect civilians as the DR Congo heads toward historic elections in December.

The resolution “underscores the need to do everything possible to ensure that the elections on 23 December 2018 are organized with the requisite conditions of transparency, credibility and inclusivity and security.”

The council requested that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres make plans for beefing up the peacekeeping mission if needed, “looking at all options” such as sending reinforcements from other missions.

Guterres will report to the council in 90 days on the contingency planning.

Times Live


At least 3 hurt as bomb explodes near aid office in Somalia

Somali police say at least three people are wounded after a bomb attached to their vehicle exploded near the office of the International Committee of the Red Cross in the capital, Mogadishu.

Officer Abdifitah Ahmed confirms that the bomb went off shortly after the three left in the vehicle from a parking lot next to the ICRC office on Wednesday.

The ICRC says it is “shocked and deeply troubled” that one of its staffers was hurt.

The police officer says one victim is in critical condition while the other two are lightly wounded.


Somalia calls for UN action against UAE base in Berbera

Somalia has urged the United Nations Security Council to take action against the construction of a United Arab Emirates (UAE) military base in Somaliland.

Speaking at the Security Council on Tuesday, Abukar Osman, Somalia’s ambassador to the UN, said the agreement between Somaliland and the UAE to establish the base in the port city of Berbera is a “clear violation of international law”.

Osman also called on the Security Council to “take the necessary steps” to “put an end to these actions”.

“The Federal Government of Somalia strongly condemns these blatant violations and reaffirms that it will take the necessary measures deriving from its primary responsibility to defend the inviolability of the sovereignty and the unity of Somalia,” he added.


Central African Republic

Scores Killed in Renewed CAR Rebellion

AN unspecified number of people, including a Catholic priest and children, have been killed after a clash between rival rebel groups in the Central African Republic (CAR).

The deadly confrontation between the Christian extremist Anti-Balaka and elements of the Movement for Unity and Peace in CAR (UPC) has occurred in the village of Tagbara, located 70km from Bambari in the centre of the troubled country.

The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the CAR (MINUSCA) said the fighting also resulted in several injuries and a significant displacement of the civilian population. Houses were burned and property ransacked.


Six Aid Workers Killed in Central African Republic Attack

A Unicef employee and five other education workers were killed this week in an attack in the Central African Republic, the United Nations children’s fund said in a statement on Wednesday.

The attack took place on 25 February as the group was travelling to the northeastern town of Markounda, located in a remote region near the Chadian border. Unicef declined to immediately give the nationalities of those killed.

“We strongly condemn this senseless act against aid workers who were there to improve the lives of the most vulnerable populations,” Unicef’s West and Central Africa Regional Director Marie-Pierre Poirier said in the statement.

The agency said it was not yet in a position to release more details on the incident.



Sudan extends ceasefire for another three months

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on Wednesday announced a three-month extension of an ongoing ceasefire in conflict-prone parts of the country, according to the Sudan News Agency (SUNA).

It is the sixth such extension since mid-2016, when the ceasefire first came into effect between the Sudanese government and a handful of rebel groups.

According to a presidential decree issued on Wednesday, the ceasefire will remain in force until June 30.

The truce applies to Sudan’s South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, along with the western Darfur region.


US sanctions lift paves way for Sudan’s e-commerce entrepreneurs

Sudan is opening up to the internet economy, thanks to the easing of US sanctions.

The country has experienced a growth in e-commerce businesses, such as online shopping platforms and an Uber-style taxi app Mishwar.

According to the most recent data from Internet World Stats, internet users made up 29% of the population in 2016 — a notable rise from the 9.3% in 2009.

This number is expected to boom even further as Sudan’s young e-commerce entrepreneurs drive customers out of the shops and into the online marketplace.

“The reason why e-trade at large is a new phenomenon is that we’ve been allowed to get in touch with the world once again,” said Yousif Ahmed El Tinay, CEO of Sudan’s United Capital Bank.


South Sudan

South Sudan peace not around the corner: first vice president

South Sudan’s First Vice President, Taban Deng Gai Wednesday has expressed doubt that peace was around the corner, saying differences between the armed and non-armed opposition were huge and wide

“Some people say peace is around the corner. I would say it is not. The gap between what the government proposes as the way to resolving the current situation and what the opposition is proposing is huge and wide. It is difficult to close,” said Taban Deng Gai in a statement broadcast by the state-owned South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation.

Gai was speaking at a political function organized by his faction under the theme ‘give peace a chance’ attended by high-level delegates including Minister of Public Service and Dhieu Mathok, head of the Youth league, who underlined the importance of peace and security in governance.

The South Sudanese former rebel chief negotiator who turned an ally of the incumbent president made his remarks after a decision by the IGAD countries to end the confinement of the former First Vice President Riek Machar in South Africa and to bring to a country that has no direct border with South Sudan.

Sudan Tribune

IGAD to end house arrest of South Sudan’s Riek Machar

Rebel leader Machar is a de facto prisoner in a farmhouse outside of Johannesburg. He is isolated from his friends and family and has been frozen out of South Sudan’s peace process.

The IGAD’s communique issued following its 61st Extra-Ordinary Session held on Monday in Addis Ababa, said it would release Dr. Machar as soon as possible if he would agree to renounce violence, not obstruct the peace process and relocate to any country “outside the region not neighbouring South Sudan.”

Dr. Machar’s wife described the conditional “lifting of house arrest” as unfair.

“If you read it carefully, actually, there is no lifting of any house arrest. Because what they said is very clear that they will transfer him from where he is now, which is South Africa, to another location that is not in the region, and that would not be in any proximity with South Sudan, ’Angelina Teny, Machar’s wife said, who is also a senior opposition member.

Africa News

Western Sahara

AU Ready to Settle Western Sahara Dispute

The African Union is ready to propose a settlement to the decades-long Western Sahara dispute.

This is unsettling Morocco, the newest member of the continental organisation. Morocco has been illegally occupying its neighbour since 1975.

Morocco has expressed its displeasure at AU commissioner Moussa Faki leading a delegation to the region to prepare a Western Sahara solution.

When Morocco joined the AU last year, it was expected it would be pressed to keep its 30-year promise to hold a referendum, which will allow the people of Western Sahara to decide on their future.


UN presses on with bid to restart Western Sahara talks

The UN Security Council on Wednesday told the peace envoy for Western Sahara to press on with talks on relaunching negotiations to settle the dispute over the North African territory.

Horst Koehler met with the council behind closed doors to report on his meetings with representatives from Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania as well as the Polisario Front seeking independence for Western Sahara.

Council members expressed “their full support” for Koehler’s diplomatic efforts to “relaunch the negotiating process with a new dynamic and a new spirit,” said the council president, Dutch Ambassador Karel van Oosterom.



Workers Sacked for Joining Union

Trade unionists in Swaziland are reporting that a textile factory has sacked workers for wanting to join a union.

The Amalgamated Trade Union of Swaziland (ATUSWA) said Taiwanese-owned company Far East Textiles in Matsapha also threatened to stop workers’ pay and closed down a factory.

In a statement circulated on social media on Thursday (22 March 2018) ATUSWA said, ‘Just for joining our organization and for showing interest to join ATUSWA the company unleashed terror to the workers by threatening not to pay their wages, closing down the factory and dismissing those suspected to have joined the union.’

It added the company tried to coerce workers to beat up union officials and organisers and when they would not it sent management to take photographs of all those seen interacting with the union.


King in Total Control of His Kingdom

The Swaziland Attorney-General’s announcement that the conflict within the three arms of government in the kingdom is ‘normal’ and there cannot be a separation of powers between them is irrelevant because all power rests with the absolute monarch, King Mswati III.

The political structure in Swaziland exists only to deliver on the King’s wishes. Political parties are banned from taking part in elections, the prime minister and government ministers are appointed by the King and the monarch is above the Constitution.

Attorney-General Sifiso Khumalo made his comments because for many years there has been conflict in Swaziland between the three branches of government: the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. In simple terms, the executive is responsible for the day-to-day running of government and is headed by the prime minister. The legislature is parliament made up of the House of Assembly and the Senate and is responsible for enacting and amending the law and controlling the money necessary to operate the government. The judiciary interprets and makes judgements about the law.



Zimbabwe minister vows upcoming elections will be free and fair

The highly-anticipated Zimbabwe’s first presidential elections in the post-Robert Mugabe era will be credible, free and fair, the country’s Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Sibusiso Moyo said on Monday.

“Zimbabwe is preparing for harmonised elections around July or August, and we believe that the election is going to be free and fair … a credible election. We have allowed anybody who wants to observe our elections to come in so that they can really see for themselves,” Moyo said speaking to journalists in Pretoria on the sidelines of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Council of Ministers.

“The winner is going to be the winner — without any limitations. We are saying everybody (should) come and observe. We are saying, the benchmark we are going to be using is the SADC guidelines for elections. That’s what everybody must use. SADC is where we belong, that is why we are here.”


Credibility of Zimbabwe’s first post-Mugabe vote is on the line

As Zimbabwe prepares to hold its first election since Robert Mugabe was toppled after almost four decades in power, a key question is whether the government can accomplish something he failed to do: oversee a free vote.

Whether the election due before September 1 is regarded as fair may determine the success of efforts by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who replaced Mugabe as president in November, to attract investment to revive an economy that has halved in size since 2000. The government is keen to kick-start the nation’s stagnant mining and agriculture industries.

The main opposition group, the Movement for Democratic Change, is threatening to disrupt the vote unless the government institutes procedural and legal reforms. It wants access to the voters’ roll, equal air time in the media and guarantees the security forces will allow it to campaign freely. Mnangagwa has pledged to hold a legitimate election and says international observers are welcome.








Africa in General

UN Security Council makes ‘historic’ warning on climate threat to Somalia

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has formally recognised climate change as a destabilising factor in Somalia.

In a resolution adopted on Tuesday as part of a renewed mandate for assistance and peacekeeping in the country, the council noted “the adverse effects of climate change, ecological changes and natural disasters among other factors on the stability of Somalia, including through drought, desertification, land degradation, and food insecurity”.

The council emphasised the need for peacekeepers and governments working in Somalia to be better prepared to cope with complications arising from climate impacts.

The links between climate change and insecurity have been emerging on the ground and in the halls of diplomacy.

Climate Change News

SADC prepares for Zimbabwe, DRC elections

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) on Tuesday said it was gearing up to support the holding of highly anticipated presidential elections in its member states — Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

At the conclusion of a SADC Council of Ministers summit in Pretoria on Tuesday evening, Executive Secretary of the regional block Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax said the much needed support will be afforded to the two nations, and advance observer missions had already visited Harare and Kinshasa.

“How we support our sister countries is that we observe elections. In both cases we have sent and undertaken our advance missions. Those missions assess the preparedness of the country, and that was done in the DRC and also in Zimbabwe,” said Tax.

“The next phase will be to observe elections. We have already been invited for Zimbabwe. We are waiting to be invited for the DRC. The invitation will come depending on the electoral calendar. As you are aware, elections in DRC take place on the 23rd of December so we still have time to get the invitation.”


Ethiopia’s Ruling Coalition Approves Abiye Ahmed As Prime Minister

Ethiopia’s ruling coalition voted in Abiye Ahmed as new prime minister on Tuesday following the resignation of Hailemariam Desalegn last month, the state-run Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation said.

The state-run channel said the 180-member council of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) chose Abiye to succeed Hailemariam as the chairperson of the coalition, meaning he automatically became premier.

“In today’s session, the council held a vote and elected Abiye Ahmed as chairperson,” said the EBC presenter, without giving further details.

State-affiliated outlets said Abiye won over 60% of all votes in the council.


Zambian parliament delays debate on motion to impeach president

Zambia’s parliament has delayed a debate due on Wednesday on a motion seeking to impeach President Edgar Lungu over accusations of breaching the constitution, according to a letter from the parliamentary clerk seen by Reuters.

Zambia’s main opposition party, the United Party for National Development (UPND), filed a motion last week. The notice set Wednesday as the date for the lawmakers’ debate and vote on the motion.

“In view of the gravity of the motion, the same is being studied and we shall revert to you in due course,” said the letter sent on Monday from the Clerk of the National Assembly to Garry Nkombo, UPND parliamentary Chief Whip who filed the motion.

UPND spokesman Charles Kakoma said the motion would now not be debated until parliament’s next session begins in June. Signed by a third of the 166-member house, the motion needs the backing of two thirds to succeed.