News Briefs 31 March 2023:

Southern Africa Focus:


Mozambique Begins Massive Post-Cyclone Cholera Vaccination Drive

Health officials in Mozambique are set to hold a massive cholera vaccination campaign in Quelimane, a city hit hard by Cyclone Freddy earlier this month.

The director of health in Zambézia province, Blayton Caetano, told state radio Tuesday that the two-week vaccination drive is aimed at bringing down the soaring number of cholera cases in the aftermath of the historic storm.

Quelimane suffered significant damage when long-running Cyclone Freddy passed over Mozambique a second time this month, killing 19 people in all and forcing 50,000 others into temporary housing.

Caetano said that as a precaution, everyone in the city will be vaccinated.

Caetano says, “we are ready to start the vaccination campaign and I think that in 24 or 48 hours we will start a vaccination process for cholera with greater focus on the city of Quelimane. He says, “vaccination criteria is that all Quelimane residents with or without cholera, including those of us in this room, we are going to vaccinate against cholera so that in two weeks we can start registering the reduction of cholera cases.”

Voice of America 28 March 2023

UN Refugee Agency in Mozambique Appeals for Help to Deal With DRC Refugees

The representative of the U.N. refugee agency in Mozambique said refugees fleeing war-torn parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo are making an already complicated humanitarian crisis in northern Mozambique even worse.

Samuel Chakwera told VOA in an exclusive interview on Wednesday that the agency now needs additional resources to cater to the arriving asylum seekers, on top of already settled refugees and Mozambique’s own internally displaced persons.

“They are coming from Kivu north and Kivu south which is still in conflict as we speak. So, their situation is far from the best solution,” Chakwera said. “We have others integrated, we have quite a few in Maputo, in Beira and Tete.”

Violent clashes between non-state armed groups and government forces periodically drive hundreds of thousands to flee their homes in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, or DRC.

AllAfrica 29 March 2023


Zimbabwe’s increasingly powerful finance chief set to retain post after election

Zimbabwean Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube secured the ruling party’s endorsement to stand as a lawmaker in upcoming elections, a possible precursor to his reappointment in the next administration.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa tapped Ncube, a former Oxford University professor, to help revive an economy that fell into disarray during Robert Mugabe’s 37-year rule. The 2018 appointment was made under a law that gives the president the power to appoint as many as five people from outside parliament to the cabinet, and enabled Ncube to remain largely aloof from Zimbabwe’s fractious political arena.

That shifted in October last year, when Ncube was elected to the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front central committee, its highest decision-making body, and Mnangagwa appointed him as the party’s deputy finance secretary two months later. Zanu-PF held primaries to select its lawmaker candidates over the weekend and Ncube was nominated unopposed to represent Cowdray Park, the largest constituency in the city of Bulawayo, underscoring his increased clout.

Moneyweb 29 March 2023

Zimbabwe becomes second African nation to cut rates twice in 2023

Zimbabwe’s central bank became the second in Africa, after Angola’s, to cut its key interest rate twice this year, as inflation is forecast to ease further. 

The monetary policy committee reduced the world’s highest benchmark interest rate to 140% from 150%, Governor John Mangudya said in an emailed statement on Thursday. That follows a 5,000 basis point cut in February.

“Domestic inflationary pressures in the economy continued dissipating as a result of fiscal discipline, the tight monetary policy and enhanced monitoring and enforcement of market discipline by the Financial Intelligence Unit,” Mangudya said.

The reduction makes Zimbabwe an outlier at a time when most central banks are either hiking interest rates or standing pat as price shocks caused by a strong dollar, Russia’s war in Ukraine, supply-chain disruptions and extreme weather persist into 2023.

TimesLive 31 March 2023

Democratic Republic of Congo

UN Security Council demands disarmament of DR Congo militias

The UN Security Council on Wednesday “strongly” condemned violence perpetrated by armed militia groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), demanding that they “immediately and permanently disband.”

“The Security Council strongly condemns the continuing violence and abuses of human rights by all armed groups, including summary executions, sexual and gender-based violence, and large-scale recruitment and use of children,” the Security Council said in a statement.

“In North Kivu, in particular, clashes between the M23 rebel movement and government forces have forced at least 900,000 people to flee their homes,” Bintou Keita, the head of the UN mission in DR Congo (MONUSCO), told the UN Security Council.

DW 30 March 2023

Security Council warned of ‘considerable’ deterioration in restive east

The UN envoy to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) warned the Security Council on Wednesday that the security situation in eastern Congo has “deteriorated considerably” in recent months and that the humanitarian situation has become “increasingly dramatic”.

Aware of the worsening situation involving multiple armed groups clashing with Government forces, and each other, a Security Council delegation visited the DRC earlier this month in solidarity with the people of DRC, and to mobilize the United Nations peacekeeping and humanitarian operations in the face of security, electoral and structural challenges.

Abuses by militia

“The intensification of the conflict with the M23 and the persistent activism of other armed groups, including the ADF, Zaire and CODECO, to name a few, continue to inflict intolerable suffering on the civilian population,” the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the DRC, Bintou Keita, told the 15-member Council.

Ms. Keita, who is also the head of the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), pointed out that in the provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri, hundreds of thousands of people have fled abuses by armed groups and clashes between the M23 and the Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC) but also between CODECO and militants from the Zaire group – which have clashed often over the control of gold mines in the region.

UN News 29 March 2023

East Africa and the Horn


Al-Shabab Has Lost Third of its Territory, US Ambassador Says

The U.S. ambassador to Somalia said the Somali government’s military operations against al-Shabab have cost the militants one third of their territory.

“Somali-led offensives have restored Somalia’s sovereignty to 1/3 of the territory formerly misruled by al-Shabaab,” Larry André told VOA Somali in an email. “Ending al-Shabab’s oppression is one step further toward Somalia’s full revival.”

Since January, the United States donated weapons to the Somali national forces to support operations against al-Shabab. The U.S. also trains an elite Somali army unit known as Danab, which means “lightning” and has been leading the offensive against al-Shabab.

The Somali government this week reported that the military operations have inflicted heavy losses on the militant group during the past six months.

In a statement on March 25, Ministry of Information said that 3,000 al-Shabab militants were killed and 3,700 more were injured in the first phase of military operations between August of last year and January. The government also said 70 towns and villages have been liberated from al-Shabab.

Voice of America 28 March 2023

Somalia drought may have killed 43,000 last year – UN

Around 43,000 people may have died in Somalia last year after several failed rainy seasons, a new report from the Somali government and UN suggests.

It is the first official death toll from the drought in the Horn of Africa. Half of the fatalities are thought to be in children under five.

The crisis is “far from over”, with 18,000-34,000 more deaths expected in the first six months of this year.

In 2011, a famine in Somalia killed over a quarter of a million people.

“We are racing against time to prevent deaths and save lives that are avoidable,” said World Health Organisation (WHO) representative Dr Mamunur Rahman Malik.

He added that the “cost of our inaction” would mean children, women and vulnerable people would die as “we hopelessly, helplessly witness the tragedy unfold”.

The UN says it needs $2.6bn (£2.1bn) for its Somalia drought response plan this year. So far, under 15% of that has been funded.

BBC News 20 March 2023

Central African Republic

Decade After Central African Takeover, Justice Still Needed

On March 24, 2013, an alliance of rebel groups known as the Seleka took control of Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic. By then they had also seized control of most of the country’s provinces and had overthrown President François Bozizé.

The Seleka (“alliance” in Sango, the main national language) said they aimed to liberate the country and bring peace, security and development to the people. They did not. Within days, Seleka fighters unleashed waves of violence against those they perceived to have been Bozizé’s supporters, killing civilians in Bangui and across the country. The group destroyed numerous neighborhoods and rural villages, looted country-wide, and raped women and girls.

The Central African Republic was unstable before the Seleka took over, owing in part to Bozizé’s legacy of corruption, nepotism and neglect. But the Seleka flipped an already struggling country upside down.

Human Rights Watch 27 March 2023

After conflict, the displaced of Central African Republic dream of going home

Like so many forced by conflict to flee their homes, Clarisse Nina Renessio dreams of returning. Now, five years after fighting first reached her village of Nzacko in eastern CAR, that dream is close to becoming a reality.

Last year the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, facilitated the return of 800 people from PK3, a camp for displaced people outside the central city of Bria where 33,000 people live, including Clarisse. This initial relocation, mostly to previously unsafe neighbourhoods of the city, came after repeated surveys in 2021 and 2022 showed that around four out of five households at PK3 wished to return to their original homes.

But the desire to return is rarely matched by the financial means. “After having provided humanitarian assistance, we now need to provide development assistance,” said UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Operations, Raouf Mazou, during a recent visit to Bria alongside a delegation from the African Development Bank (AfDB).

UNHCR 23 March 2023


Non-signatories warn against instability in Sudan if new government formed without them

The deputy head of the Democratic Bloc, Gibril Ibrahim, announced on Tuesday that they had warned the commander in chief of the Sudanese army against instability in Sudan if they formed a government without them.

On Monday, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan met with the leaders of the Democratic Bloc in a bid to convince them to join the final political agreement, which is expected to be signed on the first of April.

In a meeting with journalists in Khartoum on Wednesday, Ibrahim disclosed that they requested al-Burhan to take the needed decisions to ensure security and stability in the country through the organization of an inclusive process to achieve national consensus.

“We told him frankly that if things go this way, they will not stabilize the country and their consequences are unknown,” he said.

Sudan Tribune 28 March 2023

Sudan Junta Affirms Full Commitment to Political Process

The Armed Forces have issued a press circular in which it affirmed its commitment to the political process now taking place in the country. The Armed Forces pointed out that it is awaiting the work of the technical committees to complete the details related to the merger and modernization processes in order to reach a single national army that protects the democratic transition. They want preparation for these details to be part of the final agreement.

Meanwhile according to Chatam House, the signing of the Framework Agreement (FA) on 5 December 2022 between Sudan’s military leaders and its leading pro-democracy parties is a major step to reversing the damage done by the disastrous military coup in October 2021. It says the political process has been overshadowed by increasingly visible tension between Burhan and Hemedti, seen in parallel foreign visits, conflicting public statements, and a heavy military presence in Khartoum.

AllAfrica 30 March 2023

South Sudan

S Sudan president appoints defence minister, breaching peace deal

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir has appointed a member of his own party as defence minister, according to a decree read on state media, breaching a peace deal in which the role should be selected by the party of First Vice President and opposition leader, Riek Machar.

Defence Minister Angelina Teny, who is also Machar’s wife, was fired alongside the interior minister this month, reigniting longstanding disagreements over how the two war veterans share power. In 2018, Kiir and Machar’s forces signed a peace agreement ending five years of civil war that killed 400,000 people and triggered Africa’s biggest refugee crisis since the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Implementation of the deal has been slow, and bouts of fighting have continued to kill and displace large numbers of civilians. According to the decree read on state TV late on Wednesday, Kiir replaced Teny with Chol Thon Balok, a loyal general and former governor of Upper Nile state.

“The appointment of Chol Thon as a minister of defence is unilateral and a new blatant violation of the peace agreement,” said Puok Both Baluang, Machar’s spokesperson, calling for Teny to be reinstated.

Aljazeera 30 March 2023

South Sudan’s conflicts are not just between communities.

Next week the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council (HRC) will decide whether to renew the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan (CHRSS) – presently the only credible mechanism to collect and preserve evidence of human rights violations and crimes under international law in South Sudan with a view to ensuring accountability. Next month, the UN Security Council (UNSC) will reconvene to consider the implementation of the arms embargo it imposed on South Sudan’s territory in 2018, which expires on 31 May 2023. As the HRC and UNSC member states prepare their positions, they need to reflect carefully on the nature of the violent conflicts in South Sudan that continue to have a devastating impact on civilians. Violent conflicts in South Sudan almost always involve human rights violations and abuses and crimes under international law. They are a primary cause of the dire humanitarian situation in the country.

The South Sudanese government claims that the high levels of violence that continue to destroy civilians’ lives is all “inter-communal violence”, or solely between opposition groups, suggesting that it has no connection at all to the armed conflict that broke out in 2013 or the peace deals brokered to end it. It also suggests that the government plays no role in much of this violence and related violations. This narrative ignores that conflicts in South Sudan are caused by ethno-political wrangling and competition amongst the elite over access to power and financial resources and driven by a winner-takes-all mentality that is critical to winning zero-sum politics. This narrative conveniently overlooks the government’s use of local armed actors as proxies to fight their battles, including weakening the opposition, and pays no heed to the government’s complicity in the entrenched impunity fueling these cycles of violence.

Amnesty International 30 March 2023

North Africa and the Sahara

Western Sahara

Zimbabwe calls on Morocco to review its refusal to hold the referendum in Western Sahara

The Permanent Representative of Zimbabwe to the United Nations in Geneva, Mr. Stuart Harold Comberbach, affirmed that Morocco must “review and reconsider” its decision which reject all recommendations related to the holding of the referendum approved by the United Nations in the occupied Western Sahara to enable the Saharawi people to determine their own destiny.

In a statement to the UN Human Rights Council, Ambassador Comberbach said that Morocco “rejected five recommendations made during the review process of its human rights policy conducted in November 2022, which call for it to enable the people of Western Sahara to freely exercise their right to self-determination and to manage its own natural resources,” calling on him to reconsider his rejection of the self-determination referendum.

He added, “Morocco has militarily occupied vast areas of Western Sahara, imprisoned hundreds of Sahrawi citizens, and granted free access to its companies and European companies to exploit both mineral and fishing resources in the territory.”

The diplomat stressed that “the right to self-determination is essential for the Saharawi people to enjoy all civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.”

Sahara Press Service 30 March 2023

UN Announces First Convoy to Certain W. Sahara Mission Sites Since 2020

A first ground convoy to supply United Nations mission sites in Western Sahara east of the berm security barrier will be organized for the first time since 2020, the UN announced Thursday.

The oldest functioning security barrier in the world, the 1,700-mile (2,700-kilometer) sand wall — or berm — separates the Moroccan territory from land controlled by Polisario rebels, who have been fighting and negotiating for control of Western Sahara since the 1970s.

The former Spanish colony is considered a “non-self-governing territory” by the UN in the absence of a final settlement.

A UN report last year warned that restrictions on the supply chain to the MINURSO mission sites east of the berm have “increasingly serious consequences for the mission’s ability to sustain its field presences” there.

“Agreements have now been reached for a new convoy to proceed at the earliest opportunity,” Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the UN secretary-general, said Thursday, calling it a “welcome development.”

Barron’s 30 March 2023