News Briefs 31 October 2019


Zimbabwe economy to contract 6.5% this year

Zimbabwe’s economy is set to contract by 6.5% this year after a drought and power shortages, the finance minister said on Thursday, adding that power generation could be cut at the largest hydro plant due to low water levels.

Mthuli Ncube told lawmakers in the resort town of Victoria Falls that Zimbabwe would spend more than $300 million to import 840,000 tonnes of maize, a staple crop, after the drought left more than half the population in need of food aid.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) also said half of the total $19 billion in reserve balances held across the country’s banking sector was being held by only 50 companies operating in the country and that this was posing a high risk of manipulation and pushing up exchange rates on the parallel market.


The march – organised by the Zimbabwean government – was poorly attended despite freebies and the declaration of a public holiday.

The European Union and the United States pooh-poohed an anti-sanction march organised by the Zimbabwean government on Friday.

Both said sanctions would remain until President Emmerson Mnangagwa makes good on his promise to reform the country.

The march was poorly attended despite Government declaring a public holiday and providing free transport, chicken and Pepsi.

On Saturday, the US imposed additional sanctions, this time specifically against Owen Ncube, Zimbabwe’s Minister of State Security, for “gross violations of human rights” in response to anti-government protests.


Zimbabwe crisis: Cellphone tariffs double, petrol price jumps 12%

Amid a growing economic disaster, Zimbabweans face steep hikes in cellphone rates and fuel prices this week.

The Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (ZERA) on Tuesday announced a 12% increase in the price of petrol from Z$14.97 to Z$16.75 (R15.57 using Tuesday’s exchange rate of Z$1: R0.932), while that of diesel increased from Z$15.64 to Z$17.47 (R16.24).

According to the statement issued by ZERA, the fuel price increase was driven by the weakening of the Zimbabwean dollar against the US dollar, which is used to pay for fuel imports.

The exchange rate used stood at Z$15.57 per US$1, weakening from an exchange rate of Z$13 per US$1.



Swaziland communists warn against anti-union intimidation

The Communist Party of Swaziland (CPS) has called for workers to unite against the latest act of “union bashing and victimisation” by the autocratic government of King Mswati III.

It said the people of Swaziland must stand with the country’s teachers who are facing intimidation by the regime, which recently banned Teachers’ Day celebrations.

“The regime has historically attempted to crush workers’ rights to peaceful association, assembly, movement, including the right to form and join unions,” said CPS general secretary Thokozani Kenneth Kunene.

Morning Star

Swaziland King Investigates Possible Purchase of Military Arms While At Russian Summit

King Mswati III, the absolute monarch of Swaziland (eSwatini), and members of his delegation attended a trade fair in Russia to investigate the latest military hardware offered for sale to African countries.

It happened at the Black Sea city of Sochi on the opening day of the inaugural Russia-Africa Summit.

Russian president Vladimir Putin gave an introductory address that positioned its renewed push in the continent in the Soviet tradition of fighting colonialism.

The Quartz website reported, ‘Russian officials argued deals with the modern Russia offered African states their “independence” presumably implying deals with former colonial powers like France and the UK or global powers like the United States or China come with strings attached one way or another.’


Democratic Republic of Congo

DRC Unrest Sparks Concerns of Regional Refugee Crisis

Months of unrelenting militia attacks in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo are driving more people from their homes, adding to the millions already displaced and threatening to spread insecurity elsewhere in Africa’s Great Lakes region, observers warn.

This week, people fleeing the conflict lugged small children and possessions as they trekked across the DRC’s eastern border into Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.

They fault the Mai Mai, a general name for the scores of armed fighting groups that have engaged in ethnic clashes for decades. Since May, attackers have burned about 160 villages of Banyamulenge ethnic Tutsis, killed at least 200 people, stolen cattle that provide their livelihoods, and forced more than 200,000 to flee, according to Congo Today, a non-profit group that promotes peace and reconciliation among Congolese tribes.  


UN says will not support ‘foreign forces’ in DR Congo as Great Lakes military chiefs meet

The United Nations on Friday, October 25 ruled out giving any support to countries neighboring the Democratic Republic of Congo if they intervene militarily in the violence-plagued east of the country.

The prospect of joint military intervention by DR Congo and its neighbors has surfaced in the light of a meeting of senior military officials from five Great Lakes nations.

According to a letter seen by AFP, the DRC has been floating joint military operations to “eradicate armed groups.”

But Leila Zerrougui, the head of the U.N.’s DR Congo peacekeeping mission MONUSCO, said the organization could not lend support to foreign forces intervening in the country.

The Defense Post

Central African Republic

Central African Republic considers hosting Russian military base

The president of Central African Republic has said his country would consider hosting a Russian military base, as Vladimir Putin woos dozens of African leaders in an effort to spread Moscow’s influence at an investment summit in southern Russia.

In an interview with Russian state media, President Faustin-Archange Touadéra said he had also asked Russia for new weapons shipments for CAR’s soldiers, who have fought a civil war against rebel forces in the country since 2012. Asked about a potential military base, Russia’s first in Africa, he said that his government was “considering the possibilities”.

The Kremlin later denied that Putin had discussed the establishment of a Russian military base in CAR. Touadéra said the question was being reviewed by the two countries’ defence ministries.

The Guardian

‘Transform dreams of peace into reality’: mission chief tells Security Council

Updating the Security Council on the situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) on Friday, the head of the UN Mission in the country, MINUSCA, called on the country’s friends and partners, including the Council, to “transform the dreams of peace, prosperity and development of millions of Central Africans into a lasting reality”.

Looking back over events that have taken place since his last such briefing in June, Mankeur Ndiaye reiterated his observation that hopes have been raised, following the signing of a peace and reconciliation agreement in February, in the capital Bangui, the implementation of which has been a major preoccupation of MINUSCA. He outlined both the progress made, and the challenges faced by the vast nation.

UN News


Somalia inks roadmap to end recruitment, use of child soldiers

Somalia has signed a roadmap detailing measures and practical actions to prevent violations against children, release children associated with armed forces, and reintegrate them into communities.

The deal which was witnessed by visiting UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, saw Mogadishu recommit to ending the recruitment and use of child soldiers.

This comes as the recruitment and use of child soldiers as combatants in armed conflict by terrorist groups such as al-Shabab remains a key concern in Somalia.


UN Envoy to Somalia Expresses Deep Concern, Solidarity with Flood Victims

The United Nations envoy to Somalia today voiced his concern over the flooding affecting thousands of people mainly in the southern parts of the country, and highlighted the world body’s willingness to support efforts to provide aid to those affected.

“I am saddened by the heavy toll that the floods are taking on the people of Somalia, and deeply concerned about the situation of people who have lost homes and livelihoods,” said the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, James Swan.

“I extend my heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families and wish a speedy recovery to all injured and affected by the flooding,” he added. “The United Nations stands ready to work with Somalia’s federal and regional authorities to support affected communities.”

Relief Web


The Iconic Photo of Her Helped Fuel Sudan’s Revolution. Now, She and Other Women Are Being Sidelined

The photo of Alaa Salah—standing atop a car in a white toub, leading a crowd of protesters in a chant—made her famous across the world and helped fuel the revolution that ousted President Omar al-Bashir from 30 years of authoritarian rule in her native Sudan. It also came to symbolize the integral role women played on the front lines of the pro-democracy protests, where they often outnumbered men.

But six months later, Salah says women are being excluded as Sudan struggles to form a democratic government. The 22-year-old and other Sudanese advocates for women’s rights travelled to the United Nations in New York City this week to ask for international support as they fight for equal representation in their new government.

“Women led resistance committees and sit-ins, planned protest routes and disobeyed curfews, even in the midst of a declared state of emergency that left them vulnerable to security forces. Many were teargassed, threatened, assaulted and thrown in jail without any charge or due process,” Salah told a United Nations Security Council meeting on women, peace and security on Tuesday. “However, despite this visible role, despite their courage and their leadership, women have been side-lined in the formal political process in the months following the revolution.”


EU countries to give Sudan 466 million euros in grants, aid: SUNA

European Union countries will give Sudan 466 million euros ($516.61 million) in grants and humanitarian aid, the state news agency SUNA said on Wednesday after an EU delegation met Sudan’s foreign minister in Khartoum.

The EU will first provide a grant of 200 million euros ($221.72 million) followed by another worth 141 million euros at a later date, SUNA said. It will also provide Sudan with 100 million euros and 25 million as humanitarian aid.

Sudan’s inclusion on the U.S. state sponsors of terror list has blocked it from receiving badly needed foreign funding, including from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.


South Sudan

South Sudan’s Machar seeks delay to unity government

South Sudan’s government is failing to push through a peace deal, the country’s main opposition has said, calling for a six-month delay in the formation of a unity administration.

The spokesman for former rebel leader Riek Machar said he did not believe he would be able to join a unity government on November 12 – a deadline agreed in September after months of talks, broken ceasefires and pressure from the United Nations, the United States and regional powers.

“It’s not rocket science that the government in Juba lacks political will to implement the peace deal,” Puok Both Buluang, Machar’s spokesman, said.


Peace efforts in South Sudan stall

South Sudan’s main opposition accused government of failing to push through a peace deal and called for a six-month delay in the formation of a unity administration, casting a shadow over efforts to end years of fighting.

Spokesman for former rebel leader Riek Machar said he did not believe he would join a unity government on November 12 – a deadline agreed in September after months of talks, broken ceasefires and pressure from the United Nations, the United States and regional powers.

There was no immediate comment from President Salva Kiir or other countries who brokered the accord. US officials would not accept further delays and might impose sanctions if deadlines are not met.

Defence Web

Western Sahara

Security Council renews UN mission mandate in Western Sahara for a year

The UN Security Council on Wednesday renewed the mandate of the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) for twelve months.

In Resolution 2494, adopted in a 13-0 vote, the 15-member council extended MINURSO’s mandate till Oct. 31, 2020. Russia and South African abstained in the vote.

The resolution emphasized the need to achieve “a realistic, practicable and enduring political solution to the question of Western Sahara based compromise.”

Western Sahara has been contested since 1975 and where Morocco and the Polisario independence movement fought a war until a 1991 ceasefire.


Morocco and Polisario at odds over disputed Western Sahara

The U.N. Security Council is calling for “a realistic, practicable and enduring solution” to the future of the disputed Western Sahara, with the pro-independence Polisario Front again demanding a U.N.-organized referendum and Morocco declaring “there will be no independence.”

The comments before and after the council approved a resolution extending the mandate of the U.N. mission in Western Sahara for a year on Wednesday reflected the huge gap between the opposing parties and their growing frustration at the failure to resolve one of Africa’s longest disputes.

The vote was 13-0 with South Africa and Russia calling the U.S.-drafted resolution unbalanced and abstaining.

City News

Other African News

Masisi must abolish death penalty in Botswana, says Amnesty International

Human Rights organisation Amnesty International has said that Botswana’s president-elect must prioritise abolishing the death penalty.

“Mr Masisi has a chance to immediately demonstrate strong leadership by abolishing the death penalty. Justice is not served by executing people, and the world is moving away from this abhorrent and degrading form of punishment,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southern Africa.

“There is no space for the death penalty in a country like Botswana, which has demonstrated a great leadership role on some difficult political issues, including by denouncing impunity for human rights violations on the African continent.”


US Embassy condemns violence at Uganda university, urges government to intervene

The US Embassy in Uganda has condemned violence meted out against Makere University students by security forces, as the students strike over proposed tuition increases, and urged the government to intervene.

Last week’s violence at the Kampala university which showed police attacking unarmed students and journalists led to the embassy releasing a statement expressing its growing concern, the Daily Monitor reported on Monday.

“This heavy-handed response by security services is uncalled for, and is a direct affront to the freedoms of assembly, speech and expression guaranteed by Uganda’s constitution. We urge the Government of Uganda to allow all Ugandans to exercise their basic rights peacefully and without fear,” the statement added.