Weekly News Briefs 31 July 2020:


Scores of Zimbabwe protesters arrested, military in streets.

Source:Washington Post 31 July 2020.

HARARE, Zimbabwe — Scores of people were arrested Friday in Zimbabwe as hundreds of military troops as well as police attempted to thwart an anti-government protest, with streets empty and many people hiding indoors.

Organizers said demonstrators originally planned to protest alleged government corruption but instead targeted the ruling political party, using the hashtag #ZANUPFmustgo.”

Tensions are rising in Zimbabwe as the economy implodes. Inflation is more than 700%, the second highest in the world. Now the coronavirus burdens the threadbare health system.

Police arrested scores of people who tried to hold low-key protests, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said. They included prominent author Tsitsi Dangarembga and Fadzayi Mahere, spokeswoman of the main opposition MDC Alliance party. Charges against them were not yet clear, the lawyers said.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has described the planned protest as “an insurrection to overthrow our democratically elected government.” He warned that security agents “will be vigilant and on high alert.”

Washington Post 31 July 2020

Zimbabwe descends into rule by law – activists arrested and abducted

‘The season of arrests and abductions is upon us’ says the Southern Africa Human Rights Network of Zimbabwe.

Friday was supposed to be a day of peaceful protest in Zimbabwe against Covid-19 corruption and the poverty and hunger that has descended on the country like a pack of locusts.

But the alliance between Zanu-PF, the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and the executive supported by the army and the central intelligence organisation has proved lethal at forcibly dismantling any ability of Zimbabweans to hold any peaceful protest. The breach of the peace is not by protesters but by the ZRP.

Zanu-PF obviously knows the depth of hatred it elicits and its illegitimacy because since it arrested Hopewell Chin’ono and Jacob Ngarivhume 10 days ago it has resorted to blatant threats and, in the last few days, brute repression targeted against anyone daring to challenge its authority.

On Thursday the ZRP was out in full force in Harare and Bulawayo. Streets were blocked and random searches of commuters were undertaken. Videos and photographs of the police beating passengers with sticks and arresting some were being shared on networks of human rights defenders monitoring the situation.

According to the Southern African Human Rights Defenders Network, “the season of arrests and abductions of activists is upon us”.

Daily Maverick 31 July 2020

Zanu-PF steps up repression and fear to halt 31 July anti-corruption and poverty protests

As a result of growing hunger, record unemployment and brazen corruption, Zimbabwe’s restive population has increased calls for mass protests to force the Mnangagwa regime to make drastic political reforms or concede to the creation of a national transitional authority to give the country an opportunity to return to accountable governance.

However, to protect itself from accountability and democracy the Manangawa regime is having to go backwards on its initial promises of a free society, with the protection of human rights and space to organise and protest, as envisaged under Zimbabwe’s 2013 Constitution. In the last two years there have been brazen abductions, murders, mass arrests, and threats by the regime against trade unions, opposition political parties and activists.

This has led to condemnation by several high-powered personalities. It started with the former South African president Kgalema Motlanthe releasing a report in 2019 after Zimbabwean soldiers killed six civilians on the streets of Harare following demonstrations on 1 August 2018. The report recommended prosecution and sanction of the perpetrator soldiers who killed civilians on 1 August. To date this has not been done.

Daily Maverick 30 July 2020

Soldiers deployed ahead of anti-corruption protests in Zimbabwe

Hundreds of police and soldiers have been deployed on the streets of cities across Zimbabwe ahead of planned anti-corruption demonstrations on Friday.

Recent weeks have seen rising tensions in the poor southern African country as security agencies have sought to stifle widespread anger at soaring prices, inadequate public services and allegations of graft at the highest levels of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.

Police have warned that anyone attending the protests will “only have themselves to blame” and government officials have described the protests, which have been banned under restrictions on social gatherings during the Covid-19 pandemic, as a “planned insurrection”.

“It must never be in doubt that the objective of these rogue Zimbabweans acting as in cahoots with foreign appendages, supporters, and financiers … is to overthrow our democratically elected Government,” Mnangagwa said on Wednesday.

The Guardian 31 July 2020


Swazi palace lashes out at US ambassador for rebuking King Mswati

The ambassador had chided King Mswati specifically for acquiring 11 customised Rolls Royce limousines in 2019, for undertaking ‘royal family trips to Disney World in the middle of the drought’ and for taking his children along with him when he attended the UN General Assembly in New York.

A Swazi newspaper owned by the royal family has hit back at the US ambassador who had publicly rebuked King Mswati for spending so much of the tiny country’s money on himself and his family.

The Eswatini Observer said ambassador Lisa Peterson’s remarks about royal extravagance in a Facebook media briefing last week were “rude… ill-mannered” and “in extreme poor taste.”

The paper is edited by Mbongeni Mbingo, who participated in the online media briefing on Thursday with two other newspaper editors, Bheki Makhubu of The Nation and Martin Dlamini of Times of Eswatini.

Daily Maverick 29 July 2020

IMF Gives Swaziland Emergency Coronavirus Loan but Is Only Half What Is Needed

The International Monetary Fund has approved a loan of US$110 million to help Swaziland (eSwatini) as it grapples with the coronavirus crisis.

The Swazi Government had earlier said the coronavirus (COVOD-19) pandemic had devasted the economy and it would be US$207 million short of the budget funds it needed for the present financial year.

It applied to the IMF’s Rapid Financing Instrument scheme.

Announcing the assistance, the IMF said, ‘The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified eSwatini’s existing economic and social challenges, leading to a sharp decline in growth and large financing needs.’

The announcement was made on Wednesday (29 July 2020).

The IMF added, ‘The immediate priority is to support public health, vulnerable groups and businesses. Once the impact of the pandemic subsides, it is critical to implement the authorities’ fiscal consolidation plan and structural and governance reforms to ensure debt sustainability and achieve a fast and inclusive recovery.’

All Africa 29 July 2020

Democratic Republic of Congo

DR Congo Covid-19 response under fire as Nobel laureate Dr Mukwege quits

Nobel Peace laureate Dr Denis Mukwege has resigned as head of a local task force fighting Covid-19 in eastern DRC in frustration at the government’s response to the crisis. He said a lack of coordinated action had crippled his work.

Two months into his job as vice-president of a special health commission set up to fight Covid-19 in South Kivu province, Denis Mukwege called it a day on Wednesday, blaming organisational problems.

In a statement, he cited “weaknesses in organisation and clarity between the various teams in charge of the response to the pandemic in South Kivu” in the government’s response.

Mukwege said that it took more than two weeks to get coronavirus test results from the national reference lab in Kinshasa, which was a “major handicap for our strategy based on testing, identifying, isolating and treating”.

RFI 11 June 2020

DR Congo: Authorities Foundering on Rights

The administration of President Felix Tshisekedi in the Democratic Republic of Congo has taken a serious downturn in respect for human rights in 2020. Congolese authorities have cracked down on peaceful critics, journalists, and political party members, while using state of emergency measures imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic as a pretext to curb political protests.

Dozens of people who have criticized government policies, including on social media, have faced intimidation and threats, beatings, arrests, and, in some cases, prosecution.

“The human rights gains of President Tshisekedi’s first year in office seem to be rapidly dissipating,” said Thomas Fessy, senior Congo researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Tshisekedi should reverse course and stop this mounting repression of peaceful speech and assembly.”

Human Rights Watch 22 July 2020

Central African Republic

UNSC extends sanctions against Central African Republic

The UN Security Council (UNSC) adopted a resolution late on Tuesday extending sanctions against the Central African Republic (CAR) for one year.

The sanctions include an arms and ammunition embargo, but exempt supplies to the CAR security forces of weapons “with a caliber of 14.5 millimeters or less … as well as ground military vehicles and rocket?propelled grenades,” the UNSC said in a statement.

The council unanimously adopted resolution 2536 (2020), stating that “member states should continue to prevent the supply, sale or transfer of arms and related material” to the CAR until July 31, 2021.

The UNSC also extended the mandate of its Panel of Experts, tasked with overseeing the sanction measures, until August 31 next year.

Abdou Abarry, Niger’s permanent representative to the UN, welcomed the CAR’s “positive results on key benchmarks” and emphasized the need to “ensure stability in the country before the elections, bolster the economy, and enhance regional cooperation.”

Anadolu Agency 29 July 2020

In the Central African Republic, Bozizé plots his comeback

It’s time to think outside of the box concerning the Central African Republic (CAR). Perhaps it’s time for a curatorship. That’s because a bad chapter in the CAR’s history looks as if it is about to repeat itself. Ousted president François Bozizé is working on a comeback, seven years after the African Union, the United Nations, a transitional administration, and a democratic election have failed to clean up much of the mess he was responsible for.

The CAR has been plagued by horrible leadership since independence. Bozizé is part of this unfortunate legacy and, unless something unexpected happens, there is a reasonable chance that he will end up back in the Presidential Palace. Bozizé’s party, the Kwa Na Kwa (a Sango language term meaning “Work, Nothing but Work”) has nominated him as its candidate for elections scheduled for December this year.

Even if Bozizé does not win, there is a good chance another recycled candidate from the past will get the job, because that is what happens in the CAR — over and over again. The same names have been popping up on ballot papers since not long after independence. Sixty years later, the CAR remains a phantom state with about the same amount of infrastructure as when the French colonial power left.

Mail and Guardian 28 July 2020

Somalia’s parliament votes to remove PM Hassan Ali Khaire

Somalia’s parliament has removed Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire by a vote of no confidence, the speaker of the house told the state news agency.

Legislators voted 170-8 to remove Khaire, Mohamed Mursal Sheikh Abdirahman told the news agency, according to a Reuters news agency report on Saturday.

“We urge Somalia’s president to appoint a new prime minister,” he was quoted as saying.

“The prime minister failed to establish national security forces to tighten security for the federal and state governments.”

Aljazeera 25 July 2020

AFRICOM Says Civilian Killed in Airstrike in Somalia

The U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) says an airstrike that was intended to target al-Shabab fighters in Somalia earlier this year killed one civilian and wounded three others, in a rare admission by the Command.

The findings were part of AFRICOM’s second quarterly report on civilian casualties and marks only the third time in AFRICOM’s history that the command has said civilians were killed in Somalia as a result of U.S. airstrikes against Islamist militants.

“Our goal is to always minimize impact to civilians. Unfortunately, we believe our operations caused the inadvertent death of one person and injury to three others who we did not intend to target,” AFRICOM Commander Army Gen. Stephen Townsend said in a statement Tuesday.

Voice of America 28 July 2020


Sudan’s transition: New civilian governors, new challenges

Sudan’s government has sworn in civilian governors, some of whom are women, but they have a long, tough road ahead.

Sudan has replaced the military governors of its 18 states with civilians, including two female governors for the first time.

This comes as the restive Darfur region continues to see violence and loss of life, and not everybody is sure these new governors are cut out for the work ahead of them.

Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan reports from Khartoum, Sudan.

Aljazeera 28 July 2020

Sudan peace talks offer little hope for protesters in Darfur

The fall of President Omar al-Bashir in 2019 raised hopes that Arab militias he supported, which have been accused of atrocities, would be reined in under the civilian-military government which replaced him.

Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok is negotiating with rebel groups that had fought Bashir. But they hold little sway 17 years after a conflict which killed 300,000 people and displaced 2.5 million erupted.

Over the last month, 100 people have been killed, both in attacks by the militias and tribal clashes over precious agricultural land at the heart of tensions.

The violence has triggered a wave of sit-ins across the region, demanding authorities protect civilians from the militias, who are scrambling to secure their gains now that Bashir has gone, says Jonas Horner of the International Crisis Group.

“They’re the forces that used to terrorise citizens and push us out of our homes,” said Suleiman, a protester in Nertiti in central Darfur, reached by telephone. “They want to keep the same privileges.”

Reuters 29 July 2020

South Sudan

South Sudan Judge Seeks Reinstatement After Court Ruling Against President Kiir

A former South Sudanese Judge says he and 14 other judges should be reinstated immediately after an East African court ruled President Salva Kiir illegally fired them three years ago.

Former South Sudan Court of Appeals Judge Malek Mathiang Malek said he is grateful the East African Court of Justice ruled in his favor. President Kiir fired Malek and 14 colleagues in 2017 after they went on strike to demand better working conditions.

“It has done justice for me and not only for me but also for other South Sudanese judges who were dismissed and … all South Sudanese because you know, South Sudanese are after one thing, the rule of law,” Malek told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus.

Malek said he was forced to seek justice outside the country since the illegal act was carried out by the president of South Sudan.

Voice of America 29 July 2020

South Sudan pilot program links humanitarians with local faith groups

When the Islamic Development & Relief Agency built a water system and launched a livelihoods program in the Terekeka area of South Sudan, it was the organization’s first project where the services were provided to people of all religions. The organization had previously only served Muslim communities through its work.

“Most of the time, if people see a borehole at the mosque or if they see that it was constructed by a Muslim organization, they think that this borehole is only for Muslims. But through this project, they learned that if something is for the community, then it is for everybody,” said Zabib Musa Loro, the organization’s executive director. “This project helped to unite the community.”

This change in the organization’s practice is a result of training and mentorship that its members received, which attempted to help South Sudan’s local religious organizations improve their ability to collaborate with international humanitarian organizations, according to Loro.

Devex 28 July 2020

Western Sahara

France obstructs human rights monitoring mission in Occupied Western Sahara

A European university study revealed how France prevented the expansion of the mandate of the UN Mission (MINURSO) to monitor human rights in occupied Western Sahara, in the Council of security of the United Nations.

In this study, the professor of public international law at the Spanish university of Cadiz, Juan Domingo Torrejon Rodriguez, underlined the role of France within the Security Council “to hinder the international efforts aiming at endowing MINURSO with the mission for monitoring human rights in the occupied territories of Western Sahara “.

In order that MINURSO does not carry out its task of monitoring Moroccan human rights violations in Western Sahara, he said, Morocco, with the support of France,” tried to persuade the member states of the Security Council not to vote in favor of the extension of the mandate of MINURSO and its enlargement to monitor human rights “.

Sahara Press Service 02 July 2020

Governments, Multinationals Called Upon to Cease Illegal Activities in Occupied Western Sahara

A group of international human rights organizations warned governments and multinational companies that by pursuing their economic activities in the occupied Sahrawi territories they support Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara and greatly affect the Sahrawi people’s right to self-determination.

In a statement addressed to the 44th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, the organizations recalled that the United Nations General Assembly, in its resolution on “Economic and other activities affecting the interests of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories,” had expressed its concern about all those activities aimed at exploiting natural resources to the detriment of the interests of the inhabitants of those regions.

Based on this principle, the organizations stressed the need to “avoid any economic or other activities negatively affecting the interests of the Saharawi people,” calling on “all governments to take the necessary measures in this regard in order to put an end to the illegal actions of companies that cause serious damage to the Saharawi people.”

AllAfrica 31 July 2020