News Briefs – 7 July 2017

Democratic Republic of Congo

The Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo is over

After a 42-day period without any new cases, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo over.

Initially announced on May 12 in Likati, a remote town in the Bas-Uélé province close to the Central African Republic border, the outbreak resulted in a total of eight cases—with four of those patients dying. While it has declared the outbreak over, WHO says “enhanced surveillance” will continue in the country. The period of 42 days without a new case is significant because it means that two 21-day incubation cycles of the virus have passed.


More EU aid for Democratic Republic of Congo as crisis in Kasaï worsens

The European Commission has announced new humanitarian aid of €5 million to help scores of people in urgent need of assistance in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s conflict-torn provinces of Kasaï.

This funding brings EU humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable people in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to almost €28 million since the beginning of 2017.

“The European Union is extremely concerned by the current humanitarian crisis in Kasaï, causing horrible suffering to so many people. The funding we provide today will help for the very first time in this region our humanitarian partners to respond to the most urgent needs of those affected by the conflict. But ultimately, it is only by laying down arms and restoring peace that all those caught in this conflict will be able to return home and rebuild their lives,” said Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides.

The situation in the Kasaï has increasingly deteriorated throughout recent months; eight provinces and 2.6 million people are currently affected by conflict.

Over 1.3 million people are internally displaced, with some 35 000 new cases reported during May 2017 alone. Since the beginning of the year, an average of 8 000 people per day have been displaced.



U.S. strikes al Shabaab militants in Somalia: Pentagon

The U.S. military carried out a strike in Somalia against the al-Qaeda-linked al Shabaab militant group on July 4, the U.S. military said on Wednesday, the second attack on the group in the last few days.

The strike occurred about 300 miles (480 km) southwest of the Somali capital Mogadishu, the Pentagon said. It did not disclose additional information such as the number of fighters killed.

On Monday, the U.S. military said it carried out an air strike against al Shabaab on July 2.


“We will continue to assess the results of the operation and will provide additional information as appropriate,” the U.S. military’s Africa Command said in a statement.

“Specific details about the units involved and assets used will not be released in order to ensure operational security.”


US soon to have permanent diplomatic presence in Somalia

The United States ambassador to Somalia says the US once again will have a permanent diplomatic presence in the country after it opens offices in Mogadishu later this year.

The US embassy was closed in 1991 as the Horn of Africa nation slid into decades of chaos. Former Secretary of State John Kerry during a 2015 visit said the US would begin the process of re-establishing a diplomatic presence.

Ambassador Stephen Schwartz, the first US ambassador to Somalia in a quarter-century, this week told Radio Mugadisho the new “facility” should open in October.


Central African Republic

Truck accident in Central African Republic kills 78

At least 78 people were killed and dozens more were injured when a truck heavily loaded with goods and passengers crashed in the Central African Republic, a doctor said on Wednesday.

The accident occurred on Tuesday around 10 kilometres outside the town of Bambari, around 300km northeast of the capital Bangui, as the truck was travelling to a weekly market day in the village of Maloum.

“At the moment, we have counted 78 dead and 72 wounded. Some wounded were taken directly to their homes from the accident scene and died there sometime after, but most died here,” said Chamberlain Bama, chief doctor at the university hospital in Bambari, according to Reuters news agency.


UNHCR condemns attack on its staff in Central African Republic

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, strongly condemns an attack against its staff and premises that took place on Saturday, 1 July, in the northern town of Kaga Bandoro, in the Central African Republic (CAR).

Armed men entered UNHCR’s premises in Kaga Bandoro around 5 pm and looted all goods and money on site. Six of our staff members (including 4 UNHCR and 2 UNDP staff) who were present at the time of the incident were robbed of their belongings, including personal items and passports, and threatened at gun point.

Since the attack, UNHCR has temporarily relocated staff to the MINUSCA Base in Kaga Bandoro, and we will be moving some to Bangui.

We condemn this attack and stand by our staff. The safety of aid workers is of tremendous importance for being able to help civilian populations in desperate need.



Sudan defends human rights record against US criticism

Sudan insisted on Saturday that it respected media and religious freedoms after the United States said it was “very concerned” about Khartoum’s human rights record.

Washington raised its concerns just two weeks before President Donald Trump is due to decide whether to permanently lift a 20-year-old US trade embargo on Khartoum.

“Sudan enjoys freedom of press with more than 30 newspapers supporting government as well as opposition views published daily,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.


Sudan called ‘disaster for religious liberty’

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission has urged the U.S. State Department not to ignore religious freedom and persecution issues before possibly lifting sanctions on the government of Sudan.

The ERLC joined six other organizations — including Samaritan’s Purse, the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) and the Enough Project — in a June 29 letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson calling for his department’s consideration of Sudan’s treatment of religious minorities. The organizations sent the letter as the State Department nears a July 12 deadline for lifting sanctions on the East African country.

The State Department has included Sudan in its list of “countries of particular concern” (CPCs) — which is reserved for the world’s most extreme violators of religious liberty — since the designation was first used in 1999. Sudan’s repressive Islamic government in Khartoum was one of 10 CPCs in the State Department’s most recent list in October.

Baptist Press

South Sudan

South Sudan war apparently spilling into Uganda

Men wearing South Sudanese military uniforms launched two raids on a hamlet over the border in Uganda in recent weeks, residents said, stealing cattle and raising fears a near four-year-old conflict is spreading.

The gunmen also tried to seize refugees from Gbari in the first reported attacks on Ugandan soil since the start of South Sudan’s civil war, locals told Reuters.

“I am afraid, they may come … and burn all the houses,” said Martin Koma (44) from the village.

South Sudan’s army denied any involvement. But the reports will alarm regional and world powers, struggling to contain ethnically-charged killings and atrocities the UN warns could lead to genocide.

South Sudanese gunmen have already killed and kidnapped hundreds in cross-border raids in Ethiopia.

Defence Web

People ‘burned to death in homes’ by South Sudan’s government militias

The government of South Sudan and its militias are behaving with vicious brutality in the country, with reports of men being locked in huts and burned to death, and of machete attacks being carried out in remote villages.

The atrocities are just one of the causes of the major refugee crisis in the region, with almost a million people fleeing to Uganda. Out of a population of some 12.5 million, more than 1.7 million are enduring severe hunger, classified as just one step below famine, and the number at risk of starvation is 6 million and growing. On top of that, a fast-spreading cholera outbreak threatens to kill thousands. The human rights group Amnesty International, which has been gathering together reports from the conflict, said forces – those loyal to the government and also some to the opposition – had also cut food supplies to parts of the country.

Women and girls are increasingly being abducted and raped in the region of Equatoria, a new frontline in the conflict, which is now a region of “treacherous killing fields”, according to Amnesty.

The Guardian

Western Sahara

Morocco says UN to resolve Western Sahara dispute

Morocco’s top diplomat said on Tuesday that the United Nations is to lead efforts to end a dispute over a partially recognised state in Western Sahara that Rabat considers its territory.

Speaking in Addis Ababa at his first African Union summit since Morocco returned to the bloc in January, Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita said the AU had backed the move.

Morocco left the AU in 1984 after the latter admitted the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, proclaimed by the separatist Polisario Front in Western Sahara.

Bourita said he was “very satisfied” by the AU decision to allow the UN to lead attempts to resolve the Western Sahara question, with a resolution urging “appropriate support” of the UN Secretary General’s efforts.


AU re-establishes 10-member contact group on Western Sahara to find an urgent solution to Sahrawi issue

The African Union Summit of Heads of State and Government has adopted today the decisions of the African Peace and Security Council on the situation of peace and security in Africa,  welcoming the international efforts aimed at speeding up a solution to the Sahrawi issue.

The African Union (AU) has recently adopted a resolution proposed by the African Peace and Security Council on the issue of Western Sahara, which includes the re-establishment of the 10-member contact group on Western Sahara to find an urgent solution to the Sahrawi issue, in addition to setting a calendar of meetings on the issuet of Western Sahara to ensure continuous follow-up by the African Union.

Sahara Press Service



SADC Must Intervene in Human Rights Abuse in Swaziland: ANC

The African National Congress on Tuesday called for Swaziland, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarchy, to be referred to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) for abuse of human rights and suppression of dissent and political activity.

Swaziland’s Suppression of Terrorism Act, which has been used by government to ban political groups opposing King Mswati’s rule, was last year declared unconstitutional by the country’s High Court.

Government used the Suppression of Terrorism Act to ban the People’s United Democratic Movement (Pudemo) in 2008.

The party’s president, Mario Masuku, still awaits trial after being charged with treason for publicly uttering the name of his organisation at a May Day rally in 2014.


El Niño Causes Social Disintegration in Swaziland, Study Reveals

The severe drought that hit Swaziland in 2016 has caused an increase in prostitution and rape within families, and the abandonment of children by parents who had to move in search of jobs, it was reported here today.

A study conducted by the Swaziland Economic Policy Analysis and Research Center (SEPARC) circulated in the South African capital says that the effect of El Niño weather phenomenon has been the main catalyst for a massive social disintegration in that neighboring South African nation.

According to SEPARC, the extreme situation in some families has forced the parents to leave the children alone to look for jobs to support them, which has had a negative impact on the minors. The parents did not anticipate that violations and attempted abuses would occur.

Prensa Latin


Zimbabwe’s 93-Year-Old Leader Woos Youth in Latest Campaign

Zimbabwe’s 93-year-old president is courting the young as he makes a pitch for a fresh five-year term ahead of next year’s election.

President Robert Mugabe, accused by critics of human rights abuses and running down this once-prosperous southern African country since taking power in 1980, is on a nationwide blitz to woo a youthful generation most affected by the economic meltdown.

Mugabe, the world’s oldest head of state, has launched a series of well-attended events called “presidential youth interface rallies.” Some opposition members point to his advanced age as the reason why youth should reject him. But Mugabe’s supporters think otherwise.

US News



Coalition by July 31: Tsvangirai

MDC-T leader, Morgan Tsvangirai yesterday declared that the proposed coalition of opposition parties will be a done deal by the month-end, so that various stakeholders would have enough time to strategise collectively to dislodge President Robert Mugabe in next year’s elections.

Addressing journalists after signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Jacob Ngarivhume of Transform Zimbabwe, Tsvangirai said there was need to put an end to speculation on the electoral pact and embark on real issues affecting the people.

“We are targeting the end of July to end these bilateral discussions and we are open to anyone who wants to discuss with us,” he said.

News Day



Africa in General

State of Emergency Declared in Zambia

The burning of the country’s biggest market, which is the latest in a series of infernos, apparent celebrations of the tragedy and a subsequent state of emergency has driven a wedge further between the Zambian government and opposition parties as well as civil society organisations.

Early on Tuesday, a fire ravaged the Lusaka City Market in the capital destroying property worth millions of Kwachas in what is believed to be an act by arsonists government suspects to be supporters of the main opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) protesting against the months-long detention of opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema on allegations of treason after he allegedly blocked Lungu’s convoy.

No sooner had the smoke settled on the market than United Kingdom-based adviser of the UPND, Larry Mweetwa, added fuel to the fire by praising the alleged arsonists for the “job well done.”


Kenya Cracks Down on Media Ahead of Elections

Kenyan media and the international, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), have expressed concern that authorities are using the argument of preventing inflammatory hate speech to crack down on freedom of speech ahead of the forthcoming elections.

The CPJ warned in a Wednesday press release that new social media guidelines outlined by Nairobi could prevent journalists from reporting critically or close the space for public debate ahead of the general elections in Kenya due to take place August 8.

Two government bodies – the Communications Authority, which has regulatory oversight in broadcasting and telecommunications, and the National Cohesion and Integration Commission, which promotes national unity – are reviewing the results of a public consultation on draft guidelines that they proposed to prevent the spread of inflammatory content and hate speech on messaging and social media platforms.


IMF Issues Warning on SA Economy

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned South Africa’s vulnerabilities have become more pronounced and could increase unless economic growth is revived.

The IMF says South Africa’s economic growth is projected to increase to 1% this year and just 1.2% in 2018.

The fund is also warning that the scope for monetary or fiscal policy to provide stimulus is limited.

On Wednesday, the African National Congress (ANC) failed to agree a clear plan to get the economy out of recession and tackle near 28% unemployment but risked rattling investors with pledges on nationalising the central bank and expropriating land.