Weekly News Briefs 21 July 2020:


Source: CNN 21 July 2020.

Ousted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir begins trial over 1989 coup:

The trial of deposed Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir started in Khartoum on Tuesday over his role in the 1989 coup d’etat that propelled him to power. He faces a maximum sentence of death.

Amid tight security measures, Bashir, 76, appeared wearing a face mask in the procedural session which was broadcast live on state-run Sudan TV.

Tuesday’s proceedings were adjourned to August 11 by presiding Judge Essam El-dein Mohamad Ibrahim.

Twenty-seven other prominent Islamic, civilian and military leaders from Bashir’s regime are also facing charges of “a coup against a constitutional system.”

Only 16 defendants were present on Tuesday, according to Sudan TV, including Bashir, and his two former deputies, Ali Othman Mohammad Taha and Bakri Hassan Saleh.

CNN 21 July 2020

Sudan ‘Urgently’ Needs $283 Million To Fight Virus – UN

The United Nations on Sunday made an urgent appeal for $283 million to help Sudan tackle the coronavirus pandemic and its economic consequences, as millions in the country face hunger.

“COVID-19 arrived in Sudan at a time when an increasing part of the population was already struggling to meet their basic needs and the health system was already under extreme stress,” said the UN’s Sudan humanitarian coordinator Gwi-Yeop Son.

She said the pandemic had worsened an economic crisis, hitting purchasing power, while movement restrictions had restricted people’s access to food, health care and basic services.

“Unless we act now, we should be prepared for a series of human tragedies,” she said.

Sudan has officially registered more than 10,000 cases of the COVID-19 illness and around 650 deaths, pushing authorities to re-impose a lockdown on Khartoum state, including the capital, that was loosened earlier this month.

EWN 20 July 2020

South Sudan

Activists petition African Union to form hybrid court in South Sudan

Activists in South Sudan have petitioned African Union Peace and Security Council to establish hybrid court in the country to try leaders accused of committing crimes since the conflict began in 2013.

The South Sudan Civil Society Forum, a coalition of organisations, in a joint letter addressed to AU Peace and Security Council, has appealed to the council to use the session slated for July 21 to revive the stalled implementation of peace agreement.

The activists also want the African Union Commission to engage the recently formed coalition government in expediting the same. It also urged the AU to take unilateral action to enable the court’s creation immediately.

“Delays in establishing the hybrid court for South Sudan threatens the future of the peace deal and protection of civilians and prevent survivors and families of victims from seeking justice for themselves and their loved ones,” reads the letter.

The East African 20 July 2020

‘I saw so much killing’: how therapy is helping South Sudan’s refugees

The 29-year-old, who had been uprooted from South Sudan to a north Ugandan refugee settlement, sat on the bed where her four children slept and, at around 10pm, tried to take her own life. “By then I didn’t care about anything – not myself, not even my kids. The pain was too extreme,” she says. Her children awoke and their cries brought help from neighbours.

But her experiences fit into a wider trend of a mental health crisis across these vast displacement sites, where people from South Sudan who fled the trauma and violence of civil war now live in a drawn-out exile of frustration and diminishing support.

Since conflict erupted in 2013, hundreds of thousands have crossed into north-east Uganda to escape. The largest refugee settlement, Bidibidi, houses more than 232,000 people across arid scrubland, which the rainy season churns into thick mud. Globally, it is second only in size to the Kutupalong camp for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

The Guardian 02 July 2020


In Africa, Press Freedom Can Be a Matter of Life and Death

Recent incidents, including Hopewell Chino’ono’s arrest and government repression of coronavirus-related news, underscore the perilous state of freedom of the press in many African nations.

Today, nearly every African country holds multiparty elections of some kind, but – as in the case worldwide – relatively few fully respect political rights and civil liberties. This situation was already worrying before the pandemic. In 2019, advocacy group Freedom House touted the headline “Global Press Freedom in Peril” and gave most African countries a 0 or 1 (of a maximum 4) for media freedoms. Stories like that of Laura Miti, a pioneering Zambian journalist arrested in December 2019 while attempting to help human rights defender Pilato (Fumba Chama), were far from remarkable.

However, since COVID-19 hit, matters have got worse as ruling parties attempt to avoid criticism and maintain control over how the pandemic is viewed. Even as we were editing this piece, Zimbabwe’s highly respected journalist Hopewell Chin’ono was abducted from his house after writing a series of articles and social media messages that were highly critical of the government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Human rights groups immediately responded by demanding for his safe release.

Nieman Reports 22 July 2020

South Africa Donates COVID-19 Equipment to Zimbabwe

South Africa on Monday donated coronavirus protective equipment and PCR test kits to Zimbabwe through the Development Bank of South Africa.

The range of personal protective equipment and testing kits from the bank was received by President Emmerson Mnangagwa at State House.

Some of the items donated were 6 000 PCR test kits, 100 000 surgical masks, 18 000 face shields, 200 000 pairs of examination gloves, 50 000 surgical gowns, 4 000 medical suites and 11 000 goggles.

Speaking during the handover of the equipment by South African Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mphakama Mbete, President Mnangagwa said:

“We feel extremely happy that our brothers across Limpopo, despite severe attacks in your country found it befitting to assist us to mitigate the impact of the pandemic.”

Ambassador Mbete said COVID-19 had become a global pandemic adding that it was therefore important that South Africa and Zimbabwe took measures to protect themselves.

Pindula 21 July 2020

Zimbabwe police detain prominent journalist, opposition official

Zimbabwean police have arrested an investigative journalist and an opposition official, accusing them of inciting violence ahead of street demonstrations planned for next week by activists who charge government corruption has exacerbated economic hardship.

The journalist, Hopewell Chin’ono, has a big following on Twitter, where he regularly posts about alleged government corruption. He has also been using his account to encourage Zimbabweans to speak out and act against corruption.

“They are breaking into my home. Alert the world!” Chin’ono tweeted as police raided his home in the capital, Harare, on Monday. His lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, said he was detained at a police station but was being denied access to lawyers.

Aljazeera 21 July 2020


Eswatini Editor Receives Death Threats Over Pro-Government Article

On June 14, 2020, an alleged member of an Eswatini opposition group sent threatening text messages to Welcome Dlamini, an assistant weekend editor of the privately owned newspaper The Times of Eswatini, over a column he had published in support of the country’s government, according to the journalist, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app, and a post on Facebook by Swazi Media Commentary, a local media blog.

On June 13, Dlamini published an opinion piece, “Multiparty democracy for who, for what?” in support of Eswatini’s system of government in which political parties are banned, as part of his weekly “Let’s Ponder This” column in the Eswatini News newspaper, the Times’ sister publication, he said. Eswatini was formerly known as Swaziland.

The following day, Dlamini received a threatening text message disputing that column and saying, “Stop lambasting progressives/political parties or else u will die,” according to Dlamini and a report in the Times of Eswatini, which CPJ reviewed.

AllAfrica 13 July 2020

Schools reopen in eSwatini

Thousands of students in colleges, universities and form fives yesterday went back to school.

Following the inception of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country three months ago, schools had to be closed to avoid a sharp increase in the number of COVID-19 cases.

However, the country’s Prime Minister Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini said the reopening of schools and some sectors of businesses was not a reason to be complacent.

“The Ministry of Health’s Epidemiologist Nhlanhla Nhlabatsi has indicated that by the end of this month, our confirmed COVID-19 cases could reach 3 321 if people don’t adhere to the precautions of wearing masks, washing of hands with soap and water or sanitise frequently and keeping the social distance.

The Zimbabwe Daily 08 July 2020

Democratic Republic of Congo

Violence in DR Congo’s Ituri leaves 1,000 dead: think tank

Violence in DR Congo’s northeastern province of Ituri has claimed nearly 1,000 lives and caused around half a million people to flee their homes, the International Crisis Group (ICG) said on Wednesday.

The flareup has pitched the Hema ethnic group, who are predominantly herders, against the Lendu community, who are mostly sedentary farmers.

The two communities were embroiled in a bloody conflict between 1999-2003 that triggered concern across southern-central Africa and led to the European Union’s first foreign military mission, the short-term Operation Artemis.

The latest unrest has worrying ramifications for the notoriously troubled east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and for neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda, which played an important role in the 1999-2003 conflict, the ICG said in a report.

“Since December 2017, violence in the province of Ituri… has left nearly 1,000 people dead and half a million displaced,” the ICG said.

Dispatch Live 19 July 2020

Western DRC Ebola cases up to 60 as WHO warns of funeral risks

Ebola cases in western Democratic Republic of the Congo have risen to 60 with funerals a particular concern for the spread of the disease, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday.

WHO emergencies expert Mike Ryan said another three cases were detected at the weekend, making a total of 56 confirmed and four probable infections in an outbreak announced last month in DRC’s Equateur province.

“The disease is active, not controlled,” Ryan told a virtual briefing from the UN agency’s headquarters in Geneva, noting burial practices as a worry.

The outbreak is DRC’s 11th since Ebola was identified in 1976.

Aljazeera 20 July 2020

Central African Republic

‘Influx of Foreign Fighters’ in Central African Republic: UN Report

UN experts charged with monitoring the arms embargo in the Central African Republic cited on Wednesday an “influx of foreign fighters” into the country ahead of elections later this year.

The annual report said a “series of clashes was… fed by arrivals of foreign fighters and weaponry, mainly from Sudan.”

“Regional arms trafficking also continued through other routes,” it added, calling for the Central African Republic, Chad, and Sudan to “strengthen their efforts to combat the escalation in the flow of arms and foreign fighters” into the country.

One of the world’s poorest and most unstable nations, CAR spiraled into bloodshed after former President Francois Bozize was overthrown in 2013.

The Defense Post 16 July 2020

Central African Republic minister blasts ‘inequality crisis’ in coronavirus testing

Pierre Somse told a World Health Organization (WHO) briefing on Thursday that “we are in a scarcity, a misery of tests” – a blunt assessment of the scrambling by African nations and rising fears as the pandemic’s first wave hits the continent of 1.3 billion people.

Somse said his country of more than four million people is still waiting for testing supplies ordered via the WHO.

“I believe this is due to global competition, this is well known,” he said.

He recalled listening to radio reports of thousands, even millions of tests carried out in richer countries in short stretches of time.

The United States has conducted more than 700,000 tests a day in the past few days. And weeks ago, the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus was first detected late last year, tested nearly 10 million people in 19 days.

Central African Republic has more than 4,300 confirmed virus cases – a small fraction of the more than 644,000 across Africa – but the true number is unknown.

“It’s hiding a major health problem because we cannot have the real situation,” the health minister said.

Daily Maverick 17 July 2020


Somalia cannot afford repeated political crises

The recent meeting of Somalia’s regional leaders in Dhusamareb, the capital of Galmudug State, without the attendance of the federal government, indicates that there are political turmoil and disunity among the bureaucratic elites in Somalia.

The current political crisis between the regional states and the federal government, however, is about two main issues. The first concerns the country’s political system, particularly the devolution of power between the federal and regional authorities. This is one of the main topics that the two groups have clashed over for the last 10 years. How power should be distributed, what sort of authority state leaders should have and what the federal government should control are all topics of debate.

Although the provisional constitution of the federal government notes these powers, it has not been helpful, especially when political disputes emerge between the two governance bodies, as the document has been a topic of controversy. Each side quotes the constitution and makes its own interpretations, undermining the relationship between the political groups.

Daily Sabah 18 July 2020

UN cargo plane carrying aid crash-lands in Somalia

A United Nations cargo plane carrying humanitarian aid has crashed at Beledweyne Airport in central Somalia, officials said.

Sabrie Ahmed, from the local administration in Beledweyne town in the region of Hiran, told The Associated Press that the plane veered off the runway and crashed onto its belly on Tuesday, leaving thick black smoke visible for miles.

The three crew members survived.

The plane, flying from Djibouti, was delivering food aid for people displaced by heavy rains.

There was no immediate word on what caused the crash.

Ali Jeite Osman, the governor of Hiran region, told reporters that the plane caught fire after the crash.

Aljazeera 14 July 2020

Western Sahara

Ireland Supports UN-Led Process and the Right to Self-Determination in Western Sahara

The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Ireland, Simon Coveney, reaffirmed his country’s support to the right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination and to UN-led process of decolonisation in this last colony in Africa,.

In his written answer last 14 July 2020 to a question by Irish member of Parliament, Deputy Patrick Costello, who asked “if Ireland will use its membership of the United Nations Security Council to push for resolution in respect of Western Sahara”, Irish Minister affirmed that Ireland “position on the situation in Western Sahara remains one of support to the UN-led process and the Secretary-General’s efforts to reach a definitive political settlement on this issue. We support the right to self-determination of the people of Western Sahara, but we do not have a view on the outcome of that decision – be it independence, integration, autonomy, or some other solution – so long as it is decided in a genuine exercise of self-determination.”

He further indicated that this stand “will remain our position when we take up our seat on the Security Council, and we will be ready to support all efforts to advance the UN-led process and reach a lasting settlement.”

AllAfrica 21 July 2020

South Africa warns UN Security Council about violence against women in occupied Western Sahara

South Africa warned the UN Security Council about the increasing violations of human rights in occupied Palestine and Western Sahara, in particular the hostilities permanently committed against women.

“Conflict situations like in Palestine and Western Sahara, where human rights violations are widespread and where women are affected by hostilities, must not escape our scrutiny,” said the South African Minister for International Relations and Cooperation, Naledi Pandor, during a public debate, held Friday by videoconference at the UN Security Council, on “women, peace and security: sexual violence in conflicts.”

The South African foreign minister argued that “this will ensure that there is no selectivity or bias in reporting and will maintain the objective credibility of the UN processes.”

As Member States, the South African Minister said, “we must mitigate some of the serious negative impacts of sexual violence such as stigma, discrimination, rejection and social exclusion”.

AllAfrica 19 July 2020