The South African commitment to peacekeeping in Sudan is officially over with 8 SA Infantry Battalion due to start a gradual withdrawal next Friday (April 15).
There has been a South African military presence in the East African country since July 2004 under the Operation Cordite codename that started with the deployment of a handful of staff officers and observers to AMIS, the then African Union Mission in Sudan that was transformed into UNAMID, a hybrid African Union/United Nations mission.
When AMIS was terminated at the end of 2007 to become the first hybrid AU/UN peacekeeping mission on the continent, South Africa was aboard and responded to a request to increase its commitment to a standard UN infantry battalion.
Since then the South African military presence has been constant at around the 800 mark with various full-time force and Reserve Force units and regiments serving in the troubled east African country.
SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Directorate Corporate Communications said this week, in response to a defenceWeb inquiry dated March 8, the withdrawal of South African military elements from Sudan was authorized by SANDF Commander-in-Chief, President Jacob Zuma, as from April 1.
“The current South African unit serving in Sudan’s Darfur region is 8 SA Infantry Battalion. The battalion will remain in the mission areas until April 15 and will then commence with a gradual withdrawal,” the response read.
It also points out a project team has been “established” to ensure “a proper closing down” of SANDF structures in Sudan.
“The complete withdrawal of South African assets from Sudan involves the movement of personnel and equipment back to South Africa without compromising the safety and security of the SANDF,” the response read, adding “exact dates” for the withdrawal cannot be released.
Tunisian Elections Records high level of abstention by electorate
Tunisians are expressing a sense of despair and hopelessness in the aftermath of the second round of parliamentary elections. The preliminary results indicate that a staggering 89% of the electorate chose to abstain from the political process, a clear indication of the citizens’ disillusionment with the political system.
Liberal professional Ghada Ben Amor expressed her disappointment with the election results, saying, “Those who have been elected, what are they going to do again? What will they bring? Don’t tell me that they are going to make roads for us and that they are going to do this or that. There are deeper things. There is no program that will really improve the country. There is only bla-bla”.
This sentiment is echoed by many Tunisians who feel that their voices are not being heard by their elected officials. The first round of parliamentary elections was also marked by a record abstention rate of almost 90%, a significant increase from the last decade where some polls had a voter turnout of up to 70%.
The main opposition coalition has called for a united front against President Kais Saied, but this call for unity has not been met with much enthusiasm by the citizens. Retired civil servant Mohamed Guesmi commented, “We are in a transitional period. For the economic situation, everyone must work together from the opposition to those who govern until Tunisia recovers. What are they (the opposition and the government, Ed.) fighting about? For the empty business. There is nothing left now”.
Tunisians are facing a multitude of economic challenges, including a sharp decline in purchasing power, inflation rates above 10%, shortages of subsidized foodstuffs, and unemployment rates above 15%. These economic struggles have driven more than 32,000 Tunisians to emigrate illegally in search of a better life.
Despite the challenges, Tunisians continue to hold on to hope for a brighter future. They are looking for a solution to the economic and political problems facing their country, but they are yet to find it. The lack of hope in the election results is a reflection of the broader disillusionment with the political system, but Tunisians remain determined to find a way to bring about positive change.
Pope Francis to brings message of hope to war-torn DRC
Pope Francis is visiting the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Sudan, where two of the world’s most neglected crises are ongoing.
Marie Louise Wambale, a conflict survivor from DRC, will be among the Congolese faithful chosen to meet Pope Francis in the capital, Kinshasa.
She hopes that the Pope could bring a message of hope at a time when the M23 rebels are posing their greatest threat to the country since 2012.
Wambale feels disappointed that the Pope could not visit the volatile east and live the suffering of people who have fled the war.
His long-awaited visit was postponed last year due to health reasons, but insecurity has increased since then, so the Pope is limiting his visit to Kinshasa.
The Vatican’s ambassador to DRC, Archbishop Ettore Balestrero, says that the security requirements to protect people at a papal mass would be hard in the east, where there is already danger.
An estimated two million Congolese are expected to attend the mass at Kinshasa airport on February 1, which will be the largest crowd event in DRC’s recent history.
Fighting in the eastern DRC has involved more than 120 armed groups and has increased since the resurgence of the M23. The rebels have captured land and have been accused of committing atrocities against civilians.
The violence has displaced approximately half a million people and has triggered a diplomatic spat with Rwanda, which has been accused of backing the M23.
The region is also grappling with violence linked to ISIS and al-Qaeda affiliates. Earlier this month, ISIS claimed responsibility for a bomb explosion at a church, which killed at least 14 people and injured dozens while they were praying.
In DRC, the Catholic church mediated rising tensions in 2016 and led to the 2018 elections. Ferdinand von Habsburg-Lothringen, a peace-building expert and former adviser to the South Sudan Council of Churches, says that the church has enormous power and moral authority, and people in countries with entrenched problems need a message of eternal hope to lift them out of a generational sense of dread and anxiety.
Mauritania ex-President on trial for corruption
Details of the Case
The 66-year-old Aziz has been under house arrest since he was charged in 2021 and has only been able to leave his residence for prayers or medical care. He served as the country’s president from 2008 to 2019, during which time he handed over power to his close aide Mohamed Ould Cheikh Ghazouani, making it the first peaceful transfer of government in Mauritania since independence from France in 1960. Despite the country being a moderate Islamic republic, it has seen five coups since independence and was led by military rulers for much of that time.
Refusal to Cooperate and Illegal Prosecution
After his arrest, Aziz refused to cooperate with the investigation, citing his immunity as a former president and calling the prosecution illegal. During the opening arguments on Wednesday, his legal team, consisting of French, Senegalese, Lebanese, and Mauritanian lawyers, argued that the trial was not warranted. One of his defense lawyers, Mohamed Ichidou, stated that the trial was “unfair and unjust and it consecrates control of the executive power on our justice.”
Trial to Last Several Weeks
The trial is expected to last several weeks and will be closely watched by the international community. The outcome of this trial will have a significant impact on the country’s political and legal landscape. The former President and his co-defendants deny all charges against them, and their defense team is fighting to prove their innocence.
The trial of former President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz and ten other defendants for allegations of corruption and money laundering has begun in Mauritania. The trial is expected to last several weeks and will be watched closely by the international community. The outcome of this trial will set a precedent for the country’s legal and political landscape for years to come.
UN Urges International Community To Help Restore Peace In South Sudan
September 23, 2017 (JUBA) – The secretary general of the United Nations has urged the global community to use all tools to compel the warring parties in South Sudan conflict to accept a peaceful settlement of the four-year armed conflict.
Antonio Guterres warned that South Sudan faces the spectre of complete economic collapse, yet the prevailing approach continues to be the pursuit of military victory.
“This will require determination and a commitment to use all the tools at our disposal to compel the parties to choose peace. We must continue to push for a peaceful resolution to the conflict with as much unity and pressure as we can apply. We must also continue to call for protection and humanitarian concerns to be addressed immediately, and for unhindered access to civilian populations,” Guterres said in a speech before the High-Level Meeting on South Sudan on Friday.
The United Nations, with the African Union (AU) and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), convened this high-level meeting on the margin of the UN Assembly General New York to agree on collective measures to support the revitalization of the political process in South Sudan.
The top UN official pointed out that the shared objective must be to determine what concrete measures the global community can take either collectively or individually to bring the fighting to an end and the parties back to dialogue.
He, also, called for globalized efforts to agree on how best they can support to regional efforts aimed at revitalizing the peace agreement, especially through the High-Level Revitalization Forum, and how can they apply leverage on the parties to heed the will of the international community.
The government-led national dialogue, he noted, remains to be seen whether it evolves into the type of broad and representative undertaking necessary for success.
“The onus is on the government to make this initiative genuine and inclusive, rather than something done simply as a token display of commitment to peace,” he said.
Stressing that “The delegations and individuals in this room have stood with the people of South Sudan over the course of the country’s tragic journey since independence”.
Meanwhile, the South Sudan’s First Vice-President, Taban Deng Gai who attended the meeting expressed commitment of the Transitional Government of National Unity to restore peace and unity to the people.
He further called on the partners to the peace agreement to allow access to the humanitarian aids.
Also, UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcok said, humanitarian needs in South Sudan to prevent famine continue to remain a challenge.
He appealed for additional flexible and needs-based funding to South Sudan Humanitarian Response Plan and the South Sudan Regional Refugee Response Plan, which is underfunded.
Foreign Affairs Ministers from Uganda, Kenyan and Norway reaffirmed their government’s commitments to Support South Sudan people at the very hectic situation of war and hunger.
UN Member States, regional organizations, UN partners and members of the civil society expressed their concern to bring to an end the chaotic situation in South Sudan.
Sudan’s Armed Groups Condemn Kalma Killing, As South Darfur Government Accuses IDPs
September 22, 2017 (KHARTOUM) – The armed opposition groups condemned the killing of several residents of Kalama camp during a visit of President Omer al-Bashir to their area, while the South Darfur government accused armed elements in the camp of opening fire on the government troops.
The killing of three to eight people Friday has been condemned by three holdout groups that pointed accusing fingers at the government saying it shoulders the responsibility for the murder of peaceful protesters and called for an international investigation.
However, three statements by the Sudan Liberation Movement – Minni Minnawi (SLM-MM), Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the SPLM-N Agar denounced the inertia of the hybrid peacekeepers who are tasked with the protection of civilians.
“How come the UNAMID calls for restraint while it knows that what happened is not (clashes between government forces and internally displaced) as its statement claims. UNAMID knows this is an unprovoked attack by the government militias,” said Minni Minnawi.
Minni Minnawi, the chairman of a Sudan Liberation Movement group condemned the “barbaric and savage massacre” in Kalma
” The UNAMID should swiftly move to protect the civilians and not keep sending wrong signals suggesting to vindicate the perpetrators,” he stressed.
JEM spokesperson Jibril Bilal also recalled the UNAMID to play its role in the protection of civilians in Darfur, adding that “the South Darfur state government and President Bashir who are the eyewitness to the crime shoulder personally the responsibility of the shooting on the displaced people”.
Bilal further said that the incident is a continuation of the targeting of defenceless civilians and in line with the government policy of close the IDPs camps, and to forcing the displaced to receive the president, despite their refusal to receive him through demonstrations against the visit.
For his part, the SPLM-N Agar Secretary-General called on the international community to hold the Sudanese government responsible for the death of civilians stressing that the massacre was committed” in front of the eyes and ears of UNAMID”.
“This massacre, unlike the others, is being committed in the presence of General Bashir, under his supervision and while he is 1 kilometre away from Kalma camp,” he said adding “We call upon the UN Security Council to hold the government of Sudan responsible and to provide adequate civilian protection for the people of Sudan, especially in the war zones”.
Kalma camp whose residents are almost from the Fur tribe witnessed in the past several confrontations with the government forces. On 25 August 2008, the government forces killed over forty displaced people who objected a weapons search operation in the camp.
At the time the government repeated described the camp as the hideout of armed groups.
In a statement released late on Friday, the South Darfur government accused armed elements in the camp of firing on the security forces tasked with the protection of the site of al-Bashir’s rally in Belil locality not far from the largest IDPs camp in the state.
“Displaced persons opposed the visit of President al-Bashir opened fire from inside Kalma camp on the joint security force with Kalashnikov, Grinov and Dshk machine guns, as well as grenades”.
The government further said one soldier was seriously injured in his head as result of the attack and three military vehicles were damaged.
The statement further said that two IDPs supporting the presidential visit were killed in the camp by those who are hostile to the government during clashes inside the camp.
President al-Bashir is touring the five states of Darfur in support of a weapons collection campaign and to show that the government forces are in full control of the region, weeks before a decision by the American administration on the permanent lift of sanctions.
Mauritanian Minister Highlights Country’s Successful Efforts To Combat Terrorism
After heavy fighting in 2010 and 2011, and despite a complex regional situation, Mauritania has faced the threat of terrorism successfully. “We have strengthened our defensive capacities while respecting human rights and putting in place a policy of sustainable development,” he explained. In addition, Mauritania has succeeded in building a constructive dialogue with the opposition and civil society, improving governance and reforming institutions, particularly with regard to women’s rights.
Mauritania, he continued, has reformed its legal frameworks on the basis of international agreements, in particular, to better combat terrorism. To this end, he noted the conclusion of agreements with some groups in order to allow their members to reintegrate into society in a productive way.
Mauritania, in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), has eradicated illegal migration from its territory, the Minister continued. “We also set out a roadmap on the fight against terrorism, including through a social assistance program,” he said, adding that repatriation programmes have also been implemented for migrants, in order to enable them to return to the country under favourable conditions.
The Minister also spoke about the problems caused by climate change in the Sahel region. In this regard, he encouraged all parties to the Paris Agreement on climate change to honour their commitments in order to limit the impacts of the phenomenon.
Transitional Justice In Tunisia – A Painful but Necessary Step Forward
Recent public hearings of saw a painful period of collective introspection for the country’s people.
Tales of humiliations, torture, and rape committed over a near-60 year period—starting at around the time of Tunisia’s independence from France—were broadcast in eight live public hearing sessions from November 2016 to March 2017.
According to Refic Hodzic of the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), transitional justice processes generally take place in polarized contexts, in which there is resistance to change.
This has proven true in Tunisia, where the TDC and its chair have been the target of attacks by political and media leaders, mainly those linked to the old regime, over their operating costs and financial management.
Some have also criticized the choice of victims in the public hearings, arguing that the majority are Islamist activists, though, given that Islamists were the main oppressed group under the old secular regime, their over-representation here makes sense.
The hearings are the only publicly visible component of the commission, which has received 62,641 cases to date. It was established following the Tunisian revolution, which led to the removal of long-standing president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and initiated the wider Arab Spring.
Tunisia was unique among Arab nations in seeing a peaceful transition to a democratic system.
Six years into this process, Tunisia has successfully written a new constitution, held two rounds of free and fair legislative elections, and democratically elected a president. It is now following the lead of other countries who have gone through major political upheavals.
Based on investigations, testimony-gathering, and archival research, truth commissions were instrumental in the successful transitional periods of countries such as Argentina, Peru, and South Africa.
The TDC will produce a final report covering the period from 1955-2013, during which the successive oppressive administrations of Habib Bourguiba and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali turned Tunisia into a police state under one-party-rule.
The regimes imposed routine restrictions on freedom of speech, the press, and association, and relied heavily on intimidation, arbitrary arrests, beatings, torture, residential restrictions, and travel controls, alongside systemic corruption and economic marginalization.
Among the many women who spoke at the recent hearings was Latifa Matmati. Although her husband Kamal Matmati was killed in 1991, she only learned of his fate in 2011. For 20 years, she brought clothes to the police station where she believed he was held captive; for 20 years, the police did nothing to stop her.
Sami Brahim, meanwhile, told of his experience of abuse and torture while in jail: “All the prisoners were stripped, the young and the elderly. For an entire week, everyone was kept naked.”
He said that he was ready to forgive his torturers, but that forgiveness must be accompanied by an explanation of why he was subjected to these activities.
After giving the floor to the victims, the TDC does indeed plan to have torturers testify, to explain the mechanisms that fueled the repression.
The hearings were an eye-opening experience for many Tunisians who didn’t know such abuses were taking place. Under the old regimes, information was tightly controlled and only those affected or linked to the victims were aware of what was going on.
According to Salwa El Gantri, ICTJ’s Head of Office in Tunisia, it is “difficult to make those who were never victims, who never had any links to victims, understand victims’ suffering and victims’ rights.”
The public hearings’ main purpose is thus to ensure those detached to hear the truth directly from the victims.
Despite millions tuning in via television, radio, and social media, it is still too early to assess the real impact on Tunisian society.
Beyond a widely shared sense of high emotion, the reactions have been diverse. While most Tunisians appreciated learning about the abuses directly from their victims, some have argued that it was the wrong time for the hearings to occur, as Tunisia faces more pressing issues, such as a stagnating economy, high corruption, and continuous terrorist attacks and other security threats.
While no one can deny the urgency of the various challenges Tunisia is facing and will continue to face for the next few years, compromise on the full implementation of the transitional justice is only likely to diminish efforts to prevent human rights abuses from repeating.
Successful democratic transitions require deep change to occur on multiple fronts and concurrently.
As its work continues it will be of paramount importance for the TDC to assess the effectiveness of its operations and make any necessary improvements.
It should also keep up and even increase its communication efforts. This will help restore and maintain its credibility and relevance among the public, and challenge negative perceptions on the transitional justice process, as well as reform and democratization more broadly.
The successful creation of the pillars of the democratic transition was a remarkable achievement in a region crippled by an acute lack of individual freedoms, unemployment, corruption, war, and terrorism. To stay on track, ambitious reforms will be necessary.
Continued progress on transitional justice can help in this process, by improving the institutions that were once complicit in the abuses, primarily the police and judiciary.
If nothing else, the public hearings have successfully initiated a constructive national debate on these issues. They have also made some degree of contribution to repairing the population’s trust in justice and the ongoing transition.
Following his public testimony, Sami Brahim reported receiving thousands of letters and messages of support, while one of the TDC commissioners, Ibtihel Abdellatif, described the hearings in terms of a seismic event—“not an earthquake that destroys, but an earthquake that builds.”
This article was originally published by the Global Observatory of the International Peace Institute.
UN Approves Morocco’s Human Rights Program Despite Criticism by NGOs
Rabat – The United Nations’ Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has accepted Morocco’s response to the recommendations of its Universal Periodic Review, delivered on September 21 in Geneva by Mustapha Ramid, Minister in charge of Human Rights.
While many states lauded Morocco’s commitment to human rights, commending the kingdom’s decision to accept the majority of UNRHC’s recommendation, for many NGOs, Morocco still has a long way to go.
Ramid’s presentation, in which his stated that “Morocco appreciated the interest given to all institutional reforms during the review, which it had pursued by amending the constitution,” was applauded by countries including Afghanistan, China, Azerbaijan, and Egypt.
“Morocco fully supported 191 out of 244 recommendations, 78 percent of the total number of recommendations, including 23 recommendations that were fully implemented; 44 recommendations were taken into consideration, and 9 recommendations were not accepted as they did not fall within the mandate of the Human Rights Council,” said Ramid during the speech.
The minister also explained that the kingdom’s total or partial rejection of certain recommendations was based on “compliance with the principles and provisions of the Moroccan Constitution and ratified international Conventions.”
Among these rejected recommendation are the death penalty, women’s rights, LGBT rights, and the family code, which for Ramid were red lines Morocco will not cross.
Ramid Under Fire
Ramid’s response on these “red lines” brought him under the fire of many national and international NGOs.
The National Human Rights Council (CNDH) was the first to take the floor after the positive feedback delivered by the participating countries. The CNDH expressed its disappointment to see that the government led by the PJD did not accept all the recommendations, reiterating its opposition to the death penalty and support for its abolition in Morocco.
Egypt Knocks Off South Africa, Becomes No1 Investment Destination In Africa
Egypt has replaced South Africa and made it to the top of “Where to invest in Africa in 2018” list released by the Rand Merchant Bank (RMB)
South Africa is now second on the list. RMB said in a report, “Egypt displaced South Africa because of its superior economic activity score and sluggish growth rates in South Africa, which have deteriorated markedly over the past seven years.”
The top ten investment destinations include Morocco in the third place and Ethiopia in the fourth place.
In November 2016, Egypt started its economic reform program backed by the IMF after it had taken several measures, including the imposition of Value Added Taxes (VAT) and gradual removal of subsidies, to receive a $US 12 billion loan.
Fighting Rages In Sabratha As Delegation From Central Libya Arrives For Reconciliation
A man from Sabratha was killed and his wife is in critical condition after a random shell fell on their car on Friday as fighting between the city’s warring groups continues for the 6th consecutive day.
Local news reports said heavy clashes renewed on Friday between fighters of ISIS Fighting Operations Room and the 48th Battalion, both groups are under the Ministry of Defense of the Presidential Council.
Eyewitnesses said a fire broke out at a local resident’s house due to a random shell.
Elders from Misrata, Khomis and Zliten arrived in the city on Friday to reconcile between the two armed factions after the failure of the truce brokered by neighboring towns of Zawiya and Zintan two days ago.
Sources said the delegation arrived in the afternoon and will hold meetings with Sabratha elders and representatives from the warring groups in a bid to ease rising tensions.
Meanwhile, Chief of Sabratha Military Council has sent an urgent call to the UNSMIL and international organizations to intervene and evacuate the illegal immigrants from detention centers.
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