News Briefs 31 May 2019

Democratic Republic of Congo

Etienne Tshisekedi’s body returned to DR Congo from Belgium

The body of the father of Democratic Republic of Congo’s president has arrived in his home country, two years after he died in Belgium aged 84.

Veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi died in Brussels in February 2017.

But his body stayed in Belgium because of a row with former President Joseph Kabila. The deadlock ended when his son, Felix, became president last year.

Thousands of supporters and well-wishers gathered to pay their respects.

Some carried printed pictures with the slogan “Le peuple d’abord,” French for “people first”, reports the BBC’s Gaius Kowene in Kinshasa.


Kabila’s influence on new DRC cabinet casts shadow over president

Following secret discussions south of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) capital Kinshasa, a new cabinet has been formed and 80 percent of it will comprise of parties which support President Felix Tshisekedi and his predecessor Joseph Kabila.

Kabila’s party, the Common Front for the Congo (FCC) will have 60 percent of the positions, while Tshisekedi’s CACH coalition will take 20 percent, UN radio OKAP reported.

The cabinet – the composition of which was agreed following secret talks in Kasantu, a town 100km south-west of Kinshasa – comes four months after the president’s inauguration and will compromise 39 ministers and 12 assistant ministers.

Kabila will name five of the candidates and Tshisekedi the same number.



UN Chief Names US Diplomat as His Somalia Envoy

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres on Thursday named a new envoy for Somalia, nearly five months after his previous representative was declared persona non grata and expelled.

Career U.S. diplomat James Swan will be Guterres’ special representative and head of the U.N. Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM).

Swan will replace South African Nicholas Haysom, who in January was ordered by the Somali government to leave the country, just four months after taking up his post.

The government was upset about a letter Haysom sent to authorities raising the case of Mukhtar Robow, a former al-Shabab leader who has moved into politics and sought to participate in elections in the South West State.

Voice of America

Somalia’s first female mayor appointed in city of Beledweyne

The city of Beledweyne in central Somalia has produced the country’s first female mayor in the person of Safiya Hassan Sheikh Ali Jimale.

Her rise to the historic position was via the appointment of Mohamed Abdi Waare, leader of Hirshabelle region of which Beledweyne is the capital.

Reports indicate that she is not new to public office having previously served as an official of the Shibis district.

Speaking to the VOA Somali service on her appointment, she stressed that she will not shy from tackling her mandate head-on.

Africa News

Central African Republic

WHO reports two polio cases in Central African Republic

Two cases of polio have been reported in the Central African Republic (CAR), the World Health Organisation (WHO) said in a report on Tuesday, the latest setback for global efforts to eradicate the crippling disease.

The cases, reported to WHO on May 24, were caused by “vaccine-derived polio” rather than the wild type of the virus that still circulates in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“There is a high risk of transmission of the virus as both cases were among internally displaced persons [in an area] with an estimated population of eight thousand,” the report said.

“The two cases had no previous history of vaccination for polio. Vaccination coverage in the affected district is 50% with lack of security being one of the main obstacles to access.”

Business Day

Central African Republic: UN expert condemns deadly attacks, calls for greater civilian protection

The UN Independent Expert on the human rights situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) strongly condemns the recent attacks that led to the deaths of more than 49 people between 19 and 21 May in several villages in the Ouham-Pendé Prefecture.

“If armed groups claim their place in the peace process, they must immediately put an end to the violence,” said Marie-Thérèse Keita Bocoum. “They must also remember that they may be prosecuted either for their direct involvement in the commission of these heinous acts or because of their command position in relation to their subordinates, as well as their influence and responsibilities as superiors.”

According to the information provided to the Independent Expert, the attacks in the villages of Koudjili, Ndondjom, Bohong, Lemouna and Koui which appear to have been coordinated were carried out by combatants from the 3R group. “These attacks could be classified as serious crimes if their coordinated and planned nature, as well as the perpetrators’ intention to kill a large part of the population in these villages, are proven,” said Bocoum.

Africa News


Sudan’s Military Rulers Say Protest Site Threatens Stability – TV

Tens of thousands of Sudanese demonstrators converged on central Khartoum on Thursday night demanding civilian rule amid increasing tensions with the country’s military rulers who accused a protest encampment of threatening stability.

The protest, which followed a two-day strike organised by demonstrators and opposition groups frustrated by a deadlock in talks on a transition to democracy, underscores the volatility of the situation in Sudan nearly two months after the military overthrew autocrat Omar al-Bashir.

The head of the central Khartoum military region accused “unruly elements” of attacking a vehicle used by the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and seizing it near the protest site.


Sudan Central Bankers Lead Strike as Pressure Mounts on Generals

Hundreds of workers at Sudan’s banks and government offices, including the key oil ministry, went on strike for a second day on Wednesday to demand the country’s ruling generals step down.

The two-day strike aims to pressure the military council that took power after ousting longtime president Omar al-Bashir in April to hand over to civilian rule.

The Alliance for Freedom and Change protest movement called the strike after the suspension of talks over the shape of a transitional authority.


South Sudan

UN Renews South Sudan Arms Embargo

The U.N. Security Council renewed sanctions on South Sudan Thursday for another year, including an arms embargo. But none of the council’s three African members supported the measure.

Last year, after earlier failed attempts, the Security Council imposed sanctions, including an arms embargo, against South Sudan, where political violence has caused a massive humanitarian disaster, including deaths, displacement and widespread food insecurity.

Five of the 15 council members abstained on the vote — Russia, China, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea and South Africa. The measure passed as it required only nine positive votes and no veto.

South African envoy Jerry Matjila said sanctions are not useful to the political process.

Voice of America

South Sudan says renewing arms embargo is ‘anti-peace’

The UN Security Council’s decision to renew an arms embargo on South Sudan was “anti-peace” and will weaken the government’s fight against rebels, a senior minister told AFP on Friday.

The Security Council voted Thursday in favour of extending sanctions against South Sudan until May 31 2020.

It includes an arms embargo, asset freezes and travel ban on some officials over their role in the country’s civil war, now heading towards its sixth anniversary.

Information Minister Michael Makuei said the arms blockade only benefited rebels who had refused to sign a peace deal last September aimed at ending a conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions.


Western Sahara

Algeria ‘Deeply Regrets’ Kohler Resignation

Algeria has reacted to the resignation of Horst Kohler, the UN envoy for Western Sahara. Algiers says that it “deeply regrets” Kohler’s resignation and will remember the former German president as a serious broker in the Western Sahara conflict.

Western Sahara analysts and observers were shocked earlier this week by the bombshell announcement of Kohler’s resignation. In a declaration read by U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric on Wednesday, the UN noted that he decided to step down due to health reasons.

Kohler, now 76, had decided that he was no longer up to the strenuous tasks that come with bringing four-decade-long foes to the same negotiating table, keeping them there, and, as is the hope of the political process Kohler was spearheading, brokering a lasting and thoroughly negotiated settlement.

Morocco World News

UN’s Western Sahara envoy left post because of ‘political pressure’ claims Polisario official

The United Nations envoy in charge of spearheading the Western Sahara peace process left his post because of political pressure, not health concerns alone, a senior Polisario official has claimed.

Horst Kohler, 76, informed UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres of his resignation in a phone call on Wednesday, citing health concerns.

During his two-year tenure as personal envoy of the secretary-general for Western Sahara, Kohler, a former German president, oversaw two rounds of peace talks in Geneva, bringing together Morocco and the Polisario Front for the first time in six years

He described their positions as “fundamentally diverging” after the second round of talks in March, though the parties, which also include Algeria and Mauritania, agreed to a third round this summer.

Middle East Eye


Grants for People with Disabilities Cut as Swaziland Govt Financial Crisis Continues

Grants for people with disabilities in Swaziland/eSwatini are to be cut because the government has run out of money.

Now, only 20 people in each political constituency (known locally as tinkhundla) will get benefits.

There are 59 tinkhundla in the kingdom for about 1.2 million people. In 2016 the then Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini estimated 114,000 people were living with disabilities in Swaziland.

E8.7 million (US$600,000) was set aside in this year’s national budget for the grants. In 2017 that figure was E25.5 million, according to budget estimates for 2019 – 2022.


Total of 430 Rape Cases Reported in Swaziland Over Seven Months After New Law Introduced

There were 430 cases of rape reported in Swaziland / eSwatini over seven months, new figures reveal.

They were among 2,900 cases brought under the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Act (SODV) that came into force in 2018.

A total of 2,068 cases of domestic violence were also recorded, a workshop for members of parliament was told. This was for the period August 2018 to March 2019.

The SODV Act was introduced into Swaziland in an attempt to clarify the law. It has proved controversial among traditionalists in the kingdom where King Mswati III rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. The Act also makes sexual harassment, stalking and flashing illegal.



Amnesty International suspends Zimbabwe branch after fraud probe

Amnesty International on Thursday suspended its local branch in Zimbabwe after uncovering evidence of fraud, in the first ever such move by the rights advocacy group.

Amnesty issued a statement saying “an extensive forensic audit was conducted in late 2018 which uncovered evidence of fraud and serious financial mismanagement”.

It said that the Zimbabwe branch had been suspended from the global organisation and placed under administration and the Zimbabwean police had been informed of the audit findings.

“The decision has been made to take extraordinary measures… to protect the reputation, integrity and operation of the movement,” it added.


New MDC leadership must self-introspect — Analysts

Now that the MDC elective congress has been conducted, resolving the party’s leadership dispute in the process, the party should now focus on playing a critical role towards resolving Zimbabwe’s intractable economic and political crisis through proposing policy alternatives and building its support base, among other issues.

MDC leader Nelson Chamisa retained the presidency, while party returnees and opposition heavyweights, Welshman Ncube and Tendai Biti were elected vice-presidents during the party’s first elective congress following the death of founding president Morgan Tsvangirai. The former prime minister succumbed to colon cancer in 2017.

The elective congress, which was almost scuppered by urgent High Court applications by party members opposing the legality of the event, was held in Gweru last week.

Zimbabwe Independent

Africa in General

DR Congo forces kill 26 rebels in Ebola zone near Beni

Congolese forces have killed 26 rebels from a group thought to be linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS), while repelling an attack in the country’s east Ebola zone, the army has said.

The exchange in fire took place on Thursday in a village near the city of Beni, an area where more than a dozen different militia groups and associated armed gangs operate, and the epicentre of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s worst-ever Ebola epidemic.

The army’s spokesman for east Congo, General Leon-Richard Kasonga, said fighters from the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) attacked a position in Ngite village and that soldiers returned fire and pursued them.


African Union launches powerful new single trading market

Africa is taking a giant step towards harnessing its economic might now that 52 of the continent’s 55 countries have signed a free trade agreement that forms the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

“Africa has an opportunity to show real leadership on the world stage through strength in unity, as the rest of the world today is retreating from multilateralism and increases protectionism,” Landry Signe, the David M. Rubenstein Fellow in global economy and development with the Brookings Institution, told Al Jazeera.

The new continental trade agreement creates a single market for goods and services by removing existing trade barriers across Africa. This multinational market has a combined gross domestic product of $2m and a population of more than one billion people.


‘First time in history’: 50 percent women in South Africa cabinet

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has brought the numbers of women appointed in his new cabinet up to 50 percent a first for Africa’s second-biggest economy.

“For the first time in the history of our country, half of all ministers are women,” the 66-year-old leader said in a televised address on Wednesday in capital Johannesburg.

Ramaphosa said he reduced the number of ministers to 28 from 36 by combining a number of posts in a bid to cut spending, promote greater coherence and improve efficiency.

“All South Africans are acutely aware of the great economic difficulties our country has been experiencing and the constraints this has placed on public finances,” he said.