SALO Weekly News Briefs – 4 May 2020


Swaziland Govt. Confirms It Will Not Feed the Starving in Towns and Cities During Coronavirus Lockdown.


The Swaziland (eSwatini) Government will not send food to the starving and destitute in towns and cities during the extreme lockdown that it has imposed in the fight against coronavirus.

The decision comes as Manzini, the main commercial city in the kingdom, has been locked down by the army and police and is surrounded by roadblocks. People on the streets are being arrested for loitering.

Unknown thousands of the 110,000 population have lost their jobs because of the lockdown and have no money or food.

On 22 April 2020 the Swazi Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini announced the government would feed more than 300,000 people from 63,000 households across all four regions of the Kingdom. The total population of Swaziland is about 1.3 million. He pledged the assistance would be delivered within two weeks.


Swaziland journalists harassed, threatened with treason charges over reporting on king

Swaziland police should stop intimidating and harassing local journalists for reporting critically about King Mswati III and should allow them to write freely without the threat of treason charges, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

On April 23, police officers raided the home of Eugene Dube, the editor and publisher of the privately owned news website Swati Newsweek, and seized his three mobile phones, a laptop, and work documents, according to local news reports and the journalist, who spoke to CPJ by phone and messaging app.

Officers took Dube to a local police station in Nhlangano, the capital of Swaziland’s southern district, where they interrogated him for about seven hours about two recent articles in Swati Newsweek critical of Mswati III, and then brought him before a magistrate to record a statement, he said.

Committee to Protect Journalists

Democratic Republic of Congo.

Overcrowded DR Congo prisons at high risk from coronavirus

The coronavirus has breached the walls of DR Congo prisons with potentially catastrophic consequences for the overcrowded facilities, charity groups say.

On Thursday and Friday, 43 prisoners tested positive for Covid-19 at the Ndolo military prison in central Kinshasa, Africa’s third largest city with at least 10 million inhabitants.

“Tests of all detainees are in progress,” according to the latest bulletin by health authorities.

The prison holds 1,900-2,000 prisoners, according to different sources.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has registered 10-20 new cases of the virus per day since it was first detected there on March 10.

The nation has reported 604 cases in all, mostly in Kinshasa, and 32 deaths.


COVID-19 in DR Congo: assuring alternative education now schools are closed

Now that the Democratic Republic of Congo has closed all schools because of COVID-19, Cordaid supports hundreds of parent committees all over the vast country to organize homeschooling. “There’s no internet, let alone e-learning facilities in the remote areas. Parents now need to teach their kids, and they can use some support”, says Kinshasa-based Programme Director Charlotte Lepri.

On April 6, 161 COVID-19 cases were confirmed in DR Congo, most of them in Kinshasa and a handful in Eastern Congo. 18 people had died from the virus. “So far, the majority of victims and patients ‘imported’ the disease after they returned from infected areas in Europe and Asia”, Lepri says. “That’s why areas as the international airport and the Gombe, the richest part of Kinshasa where most of the COVID-19 cases are, are closely monitored”, she continues.

Relief Web


Locked Out of Aid, Zimbabwe Begs IMF and World Bank for Help

Zimbabwe, locked out of coronavirus-related aid programs because of debt arrears, has thrown itself at the mercy of organizations including the International Monetary Fund. It has received no response.

In an April 2 letter to the heads of the IMF, World Bank, African Development Bank, Paris Club and European Investment Bank, Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube sought debt relief and an arrears clearance program, according to a copy of the letter seen by Bloomberg. The government hasn’t received any replies, said two people with knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be identified as the request hasn’t been made public.

“The global Covid-19 pandemic is expected to have a devastating health, humanitarian and economic impact on Zimbabwe,” Ncube said in the letter. “Domestic resources to allow the authorities to mitigate the impact of the pandemic are insufficient and access to external financing is severely constrained due to external debt arrears.”


Struggling Zimbabwe adds another two weeks to its lockdown

The Covid-19 pandemic has forced the government of Zimbabwe to its knees as it counts economic losses.

As such, when President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced a further two weeks lockdown on an eased “level 2”, he revealed the country was struggling to cope because it was excluded from international bailout packages due to sanctions.

His finance minister, Mthuli Ncube, wrote to International Finance Institutions (IFI) informing the world that Zimbabwe will struggle in a post Covid-19 world as it is already running on an empty tank.

“The global Covid-19 pandemic is expected to have a devastating health, humanitarian and economic impact on Zimbabwe,” Ncube said.

He also revealed that domestic resources were not enough to stir the country to a safe mode and government was partly to blame in the way it ran the economy.

“The Zimbabwean authorities duly acknowledge their responsibility for the recent policy missteps during late 2019,” reads the letter.


Central African Republic

At least 25 dead in Central African Republic clashes

Militia clashes this week in Central African Republic left at least 25 people dead and 51 injured, the country’s communications minister said, confirming the latest violence to undermine last year’s peace deal between rebel groups and the government.

Humanitarian workers told AFP that the fighting on Wednesday in the northern town of Ndele was caused by rival factions of the FPRC – one of the country’s largest rebel groups – which split along ethnic lines in 2019 and have been clashing ever since.

Political tensions are meanwhile rising in the country ahead of presidential elections slated for December but which may be pushed back due to the coronavirus pandemic. There have been 64 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in CAR so far.

The New Humanitarian

The CAR prohibits entry into its territory to Cameroonian road haulers because of Covid-19

Cameroonian road haulers have been banned, since April 28, from entering the Central African Republic (CAR), according to an official note from the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the CAR (MINUSCA), established in 2014.

Due to the emergency caused by the Convid-19 pandemic, as of today, no drivers or other passengers from Cameroon will be allowed to enter the Central African Republic,” the Minusca writes. It invites Cameroonian drivers to organize their cargo deliveries so that CAR counterparts can take over at the Cameroon-CAR border to bring the cargos to Bangui.

We are aware that this arrangement could generate additional costs. The Minusca is willing to negotiate these additional costs, if any, with all carriers and this arrangement will be included in future contracts,” the Mission offers.

Business in Cameroon


Somalia confirms 51 new Covid-19 cases, country’s tally at 722

Somalia has announced that 51 new people have tested positive for Coronavirus in the last 24 hours. This takes the total Covid-19 cases in the Horn of Africa country to 722. One death was also recorded taking the death toll to 32.

In addition, 10 new patients have recovered, taking the total recoveries to 44.

Somalia’s Minister of Health and Social Care Fowziya Abikar Nur announced that 37 o the new cases are from Banadir region (Mogadishu and its environs), 12 from Puntland and 2 from Galmudug state.

She added that 32 of the cases are male while 19 are female.

Only Djibouti has recorded more Covid-19 cases than Somalia in the Eastern African region with over 1100 confirmed cases while Sudan has the highest number of deaths at 41.

Somali Affairs

Somalia: Spate of Arrests, Intimidation of Journalists

Somali authorities have been stepping up their intimidation of journalists as the country faces a growing number of Covid-19 cases. Since mid-April 2020 alone, authorities arbitrarily detained three journalists, accused two of various crimes, and prohibited a local radio station from broadcasting in a local dialect.

As of April 30, Somalia had 601 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 28 deaths reported. The country is also scheduled to hold general elections in late 2020 or early 2021, possibly the country’s first open election in 50 years. Somali authorities should use World Press Freedom Day, May 3, 2020, to commit to ending arbitrary arrests and harassment of journalists.

“Somali authorities should stop jailing and harassing journalists at the very time when getting the news is crucial,” said Laetitia Bader, Horn of Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “An independent media protected from abuse is key to ensuring that Somalis have information to make informed decisions during the pandemic.”

Human Rights Watch


Sudanese struggle with inflation, lockdown during Ramadan

Sudanese struggle with inflation, lockdown during Ramadan

With the country facing an economic crisis, stocking up for the month has been hard for many – especially for families who rely on day-to-day income.

Nearly eight million people in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, are marking the fasting month of Ramadan under a lockdown imposed to try and curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

But with the country facing an economic crisis as well, stocking up for the month has been hard for many – especially for families who rely on a day-to-day income.


Sudanese government bans female genital mutilation

Sudan’s government has criminalized female genital mutilation (FGM), a government spokesperson told CNN on Friday, clamping down on a practice that most of the country’s women and girls have endured.

An amendment of the country’s criminal code was passed outlawing FGM, the Sudanese Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding that the action fell under the government’s commitment to international human rights agreements.

According to United Nations data around 88% of the female population in Sudan have suffered FGM, making it one of the world’s most-affected nations.

“No doubt this article will contribute in addressing one of the most dangerous social practices, which constitutes a clear violation against women and a crime against women’s rights,” the Sudanese Foreign Ministry statement says.


South Sudan

UNHCR warns of looming humanitarian crisis in South Sudan, amidst ongoing fighting and coronavirus threat

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is warning today of the potentially devastating impact of a COVID-19 outbreak in South Sudan. Years of conflict and a number of recent natural disasters have left many internally displaced people, refugees and host communities throughout the country struggling to meet their basic needs and now particularly vulnerable to the threat of COVID-19.

“Years of violence have severely damaged South Sudan’s health services,” said Raouf Mazou, UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Operations. “After last year’s floods and the recent locust swarm, people are struggling. Together with the threat of COVID-19, this is a perfect storm that may lead to potentially terrible consequences for millions of people living in already precarious situations, if the virus rapidly spreads.”

To date, there have been 35 confirmed cases of coronavirus in South Sudan. Many of the 1.7 million internally displaced people in the country are living in crowded, collective sites where they face poor sanitary conditions and limited or no access to health facilities.


South Sudan: Evidence of violations and illicit concealment of arms must spur UN to renew arms embargo

The UN Security Council must renew and strengthen enforcement of the arms embargo on South Sudan, Amnesty International said today, exposing new evidence that multiple security forces are breaching it and concealing weapons amid a volatile security situation. Next month the Security Council is set to vote on a resolution that would renew the embargo, which currently expires on 31 May 2020.

Earlier this year, the organization’s investigators gained access to 12 military training and cantonment sites across the country run by members of formerly opposed forces including the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF), Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO) and South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA), as well as the so-called “Organized Forces” of the police, fire brigade, and wildlife service.

Amnesty International discovered evidence of newly imported small arms and ammunition, illicit concealment of weapons, and diversion of armoured vehicles for military uses not approved under the arms transfer licenses. Government and former opposition forces’ reporting on security arrangements actively deceived Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)-supported monitors, showing an urgent need for meticulous, independent verification.

Amnesty International

Western Sahara

‘Algerian president withdraws Western Sahara file from army’

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has decided to establish the Algerian Agency for International Cooperation (AACI) which will be headed by Colonel Mohamed Chafik Mesbah, who has previously worked for the intelligence services.

Spanish newspaper Atalayar reported that the presidential initiative has two purposes, one of which is: “To curb the dominance of the army and the intelligence over the country’s foreign policy.”

The second goal, according to the newspaper, is: “To create suitable conditions for the presidency to regain control over the Western Sahara file and reacquire the jurisdictions to have a say in the strategic and political crisis that the Maghreb region is witnessing.”

The Western Sahara issue file has contributed to rising tensions between Algeria and Morocco. Thus, opening this file in 1975 has led to closing land borders between the two countries since the summer of 1994.

Middle East Monitor

President of Republic Offers Condolences to His Tanzanian Counterpart On Passing of Former Minister for Foreign Affairs

President of the Repubilic, Secretary General of the Frente POLISARIO, Brahim Ghali, has addressed a message of condolence to President of the United Republic of Tanzania, H.E. Dr John Pombe Joseph Magufuli, on the passing away of H.E. Ambassador Dr Augustine Mahiga, Minister of Constitutional and Legal Affairs and former Minister for Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation of the United Republic of Tanzania.

“I have learnt with deep sadness and sorrow, the passing away of H.E. Ambassador Dr Augustine Mahiga, Minister of Constitutional and Legal Affairs and former Minister for Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation of the United Republic of Tanzania, on Friday 1st May at his home in Dodoma,” said the president of the Republic in his message.

“On this sad occasion, I would like to express to Your Excellency, to the People of Tanzania and to the family of the late Ambassador Augustine Mahiga our most sincere condolences for this sudden demise.”