News Briefs 9 July 2021

Southern Africa Focus


Zimbabwe army commander dies from cancer – presidential spokesman

Zimbabwe’s army commander died early on Thursday after succumbing to cancer, the presidential spokesman said.

The army holds an outsized influence in Zimbabwean politics. In November 2017, the army stepped in to oust the late Robert Mugabe and pave way for incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Lieutenant General Edzayi Chimonyo, who was appointed to the position after the coup, had been battling cancer, George Charamba, the presidential spokesman wrote on Twitter.

Chimonyo, like all the current crop of military generals in Zimbabwe, is a former fighter in the country’s 1970s war of independence.

News24 8 July 2021

Zimbabwe becomes first nation to exempt SADC countries from visa requirements

Zimbabwe has become the first country to exempt all member states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) from visa requirements.

SADC is a regional economic community whose goal is to further regional socio-economic cooperation and integration as well as political and security cooperation among 16 countries in southern Africa, Xinhua news agency reported.

Zimbabwe’s Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Frederick Shava made the remarks in an official statement, saying: “Regarding the implementation of the visa exemption among SADC Member States and the facilitation of free movement of SADC citizens within the region, I wish to highlight that Zimbabwe is the first and only country that has exempted all SADC Member States from visa requirements, other SADC Member States are undertaking internal processes to ensure that SADC citizens can travel freely in the region.”

IOL 9 July 2021


Eswatini protests: ‘we are fighting a liberation struggle’

Authorities in Eswatini have promised a “national dialogue” in an attempt to avert further unrest after dozens died and hundreds of businesses were burned down in weeks of protest in Africa’s only remaining absolute monarchy.

The move has been greeted with scepticism by opposition leaders and analysts, with fears of further violence in the landlocked country of 1.3 million if there are no significant reforms to the autocratic political system.

The UN expressed deep concern on Tuesday at the reaction of authorities in Eswatini, which was formerly known as Swaziland, to recent protests and sporadic looting, calling for an independent investigation into allegations of “disproportionate and unnecessary use of force, harassment and intimidation” by security forces.

The allegations include “the use of live ammunition by police”, a UN spokesperson said, adding that the organisation was worried by “the potential for further unrest”.

The Guardian 8 July 2021

Internet restored in eSwatini, says MTN

Access to social media platforms in eSwatini has been restored, mobile telecommunication company MTN said on Thursday.

“Please take note that as of this morning [Thursday] all social media platforms are accessible. We regret the inconvenience caused by the unavailability of these platforms,” the company said in a statement posted on its social media platforms, signed by MTN eSwatini management.

Internet services were restricted last week, this was after the eSwatini Communication Commission issued a directive to MTN and other operators to suspend access to social media and online platforms.

MTN confirmed in a statement that subsidiary MTN eSwatini and other operators received a directive from the communication commission to suspend access to social media and online platforms until otherwise informed.

 IOL 8 July 2021

Democratic Republic of Congo

DR Congo’s Tshisekedi reshuffles central bank

DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi has reshuffled leadership at the country’s central bank, appointing its first female governor and naming seven members of the board, the authorities announced on Tuesday.

Marie Malangu Kabedi Mbuyi, 63, a veteran official with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), replaces Deogratias Mutombo, who was named in 2013 by Tshisekedi’s predecessor, Joseph Kabila.

Tshisekedi also appointed two deputy governors, Dieudonne Fikiri Alimasi and William Pambu Pambu, as well as seven members of the board, according to the announcement, read on the state broadcaster RNTC.

News24 6 July 2021

DR Congo sees fresh government impetus to fight unrelenting violence in the east

A new government action plan in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has the potential to reverse the urgent and tragic deterioration in the east of the country, where thousands of human rights abuses are being committed against civilians by armed militants, the senior UN official in the country told the Security Council on Wednesday.

Bintou Keita, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC, said fresh strides towards peace and stability are prerequisites for the mission, known as MONUSCO, to responsibly withdraw, in line with its planned drawdown.

Crisis in the east

The security and humanitarian situations in the eastern Congolese provinces of?Ituri,?North and South Kivu,?continue to be a source?of grave concern to the international community.  ?

Amid ongoing violence by armed groups, including the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), the eruption of Mount?Nyiragongo?on 22 May led to large-scale population movements, exacerbating existing challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and resurgent cases of Ebola.

UN News 7 July 2021

Central Africa and the Horn


Somalia Re-Elects Electoral Commission Boss Rejected By Opposition

Somalia has taken another crucial step in its bid to conduct much-delayed elections, after opposition groups changed their stance and accepted an electoral boss they had initially rejected.

Mohamed Hassan Irro, who had been chairman of the disbanded federal independent electoral teams, was voted in on Sunday to chair the new Federal Independent Electoral Commission, bringing to an end month of bickering.

Irro, a Kenyan-educated communication specialist, got 14 votes to win the contest after two rounds, while his competitor Liban Mohamed Hassan received attained 10 votes. One member of the 25-member body was declared absent.

For the position of deputy chair of the FIEC, Mawlid Matan Salad, a lawyer, won the contest.

AllAfrica 7 July 2021

The violence in Somalia needs to be addressed

Somalia’s Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble unveiled the timetable for indirect parliamentary and presidential elections. The timetable schedules elections for the upper house to take place on July 25 and the lower house between August 10 and September 10. Afterward, both houses will convene to vote for the presidency on October 10.

The delayed election comes at a tense time and could spiral into widespread violence unless more is done to address the root causes of violence. Since the formation of the Somali National Movement in the 1980s, violence in Somalia has become the norm. Whether it is violent attacks by al-Shabaab, civilian deaths from U.S. drone strikes, the government firing on protesters, or the failure of AMISOM to protect civilians, violence continues to be a daily reality for the people of Somalia. 

The escalating situation in Somalia is more than a constitutional crisis. The 30-year-old armed conflict has become one of the most complex, multi-dimensional security crises in the world. The way forward needs to include local civil society and peacebuilding actors working alongside security actors to bridge the state-society divide. These efforts must be conducted alongside meaningful steps from the government and clan elders to help end this entrenched crisis. 

The Hill 8 July 2021


Sudan Gets Much-Needed Debt Relief From IMF

Sudan has obtained the much-needed debt relief from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which will see most of its $60 billion owed to creditors settled and Khartoum allowed back into borrowing eligibility.

The move announced by IMF under the ‘decision point’ step means Sudan has become the 38th country in the world to obtain debt relief under a scheme known as Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPC) by the IMF and the World Bank.

Khartoum initially qualified for $23.5 billion debt relief, which could rise if it follows all the conditions the IMF has set.

The scheme is often granted to poor countries to enable them sustain debt while providing crucial services to the public.

AllAfrica 1 July 2021

Sudan’s transition faces hurdle of merging paramilitary into army

Integrating a powerful paramilitary force into the army has emerged as the latest stumbling block in Sudan’s transition to civilian rule following three decades under ousted strongman Omar al-Bashir.

A civilian-military administration has led Sudan since August 2019 under a power-sharing deal that was due to expire next year but was extended after a peace agreement reached in October with several rebel groups.

Both deals stipulated the need for reform to the military, including the integration of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) — formed in 2013 to crush rebels fighting Bashir’s government throughout Sudan — into the regular army.

The RSF largely drew its members from Arab nomads and camel-herding Janjaweed militias whom rights groups accuse of atrocities in Darfur.

France24 28 June 2021

South Sudan

Peace vow as South Sudan marks independence with little to celebrate

President Salva Kiir on Friday pledged not to return South Sudan to war as the country marked 10 years of troubled independence with little to rejoice.

At midnight on 9 July, 2011, raucous celebrations erupted as the world’s newest nation was born and the people of South Sudan cheered the end of a decades-long struggle for statehood from Sudan.

But the revelry was short-lived.

Just two years later South Sudan was at war with itself, the task of nation-building forgotten as its liberators tore the country apart, dashing expectations of a glittering future.

Close to 400 000 people would die before a ceasefire was declared in 2018.

But today the country is more fragile than ever, confronting looming starvation, political insecurity, economic ruin and natural calamities.

News24 9 July 2021

South Sudan: UNICEF warns of ‘desperation and hopelessness’ for children 10 years after independence

Ten years after South Sudan achieved independence, more children there are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance than ever before, the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, said on Tuesday.

In a report published ahead of the country’s milestone anniversary on 9 July, UNICEF found a record 4.5 million youngsters, or two-thirds of children in South Sudan, are in desperate need of support.

The child mortality rate is among the highest in the world, the agency added, with one in 10 children not expected to reach their fifth birthday. Malnutrition and limited access to education are among other top concerns.

UN News 6 July 2021

North Africa

Western Sahara

UN expert calls on Morocco to stop targeting activists over Western Sahara

Morocco must stop targeting activists and journalists who stand up for human rights in the disputed region of Western Sahara, a UN-appointed independent expert said Thursday, triggering a strong denial from Rabat’s ambassador.

Morocco laid claim to the former Spanish colony with rich phosphate resources and offshore fisheries after Spain withdrew in 1975, but the separatist Polisario Front denies this claim.

“I urge the government of Morocco to cease targeting human rights defenders and journalists for their work, and to create an environment in which they can carry out such work without fear of retaliation,” Mary Lawlor said in a statement.

The United Nations special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, who does not speak in the UN’s name, highlighted the cases of Naama Asfari and Khatri Dadda.

France24 1 July 2021

UN urges Morocco, Polisario to accept candidate for W Sahara post

The UN chief on Friday urged Morocco and the Polisario Front to accept his next candidate for the post of UN special envoy for the disputed region of Western Sahara, after they rejected all the previous candidates.

The Polisario Front has for decades fought Morocco for the independence of Western Sahara, a desert region that was a Spanish colony until 1975.

“It is absolutely essential to have an envoy to relaunch the political dialogue on Western Sahara,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said at a joint press conference in Madrid with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.

“The difficulty is that we already put forward 13 names and until now we haven’t got the parties’ agreement, which is very important … because the envoy has to work with them to launch the political dialogue.”

Aljazeera 2 July 2021

International Affairs Update


Myanmar Junta Reportedly Arresting Dissidents’ Family Members

Myanmar’s post-coup ruling State Administration Council has, since the last week of February, been arresting family members of dissidents in an effort to pressure the dissidents to turn themselves in, according to dissidents, lawyers helping those charged, and an official of the opposition National Unity Government.

Family members of activists, politicians, and officials involved in the Civil Disobedience Movement, they say, have been arrested and imprisoned by SAC. Some, they say, were beaten and tortured by security forces for failing to provide information about dissidents who have evaded arrest.

“Arresting innocent family members is a coercive act. We strongly condemn this,” Aung Myo Min, the NUG’s human rights minister, who has spent three decades defending human rights, told VOA June 30.

Voice of America 9 July 2021

Myanmar military kills at least 25 people in raid on central town

Myanmar’s armed forces killed at least 25 people in a confrontation with opponents of the military at a town in the centre of the Southeast Asian nation, villagers said on Sunday, as people increasingly take up arms against the generals who seized power in a coup five months ago.

A spokesman for the military did not respond to Reuters news agency calls requesting comment on the violence at Depayin in the Sagaing region, about 300km (200 miles) north of the capital, Naypyidaw, which took place on Friday.

The state-run Global New Light of Myanmar said that “armed terrorists” had ambushed security forces patrolling there, killing one and wounding six. It said the attackers retreated after the security forces retaliated.

Aljazeera 5 July 2021


The draconian law used by Israel to steal Palestinian land

In early May, more than 50 Jewish families packed their bags and moved to a hilltop in the West Bank in the occupied Palestinian territory.

They quickly erected modular homes, a synagogue, a nursery, and even dug a playground to claim a piece of land they neither purchased nor inherited.

These settlers called it the Evyatar outpost, after Evyatar Borosky – a Jewish man killed in 2013 allegedly by a Palestinian.

All settlements or outposts – a backdoor to keep claiming Palestinian land after Israel committed to freezing settlements in the Oslo Accords in 1993 – are deemed illegal under international law.

The Evyatar outpost stood out because it was illegal under Israeli law, too.

Aljazeera 8 July 2021

Hundreds of Palestinians in West Bank protest against PA’s Abbas

Hundreds of Palestinians have gathered in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah to demonstrate against President Mahmoud Abbas, hoping to inject new momentum into a protest movement sparked by the death of an outspoken critic in the custody of security forces.

Palestinian security forces and groups of men in plainclothes violently dispersed a similar protest a week ago, drawing expressions of concern from the United States and the United Nations human rights chief. There were no immediate reports of violence at Saturday’s demonstration.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) was established as part of the peace process in the 1990s and governs parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

It has grown increasingly domineering and unpopular, and Abbas cancelled the first elections in 15 years in April when it looked like his fractured Fatah party would lose.

Aljazeera 3 July 2021