Category Archives: Central Africa

Fake Coastguards and Taxi Cabs Fuel Libya’s Migrant Trade

YAOUDE (CAMEROON) — “They hang you from the ceiling by (your) arms and legs and then throw you down to the floor”

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A footage of African immigrants being traded as slaves in Libya

When uniformed men boarded the overloaded rubber dingy carrying Christelle Timdi and her boyfriend to a new life in Europe she thought the Italian coastguard had come to rescue them.

But the men took out guns and began to shoot. “Many people fell in the sea,” the 32-year-old Cameroonian said as she described seeing her boyfriend, Douglas, falling in the water and disappearing into the darkness.

The gunmen took Timdi and her fellow passengers back to Libya where they were locked up, raped, beaten and forced to make calls to their families back home for ransom payments to secure their freedom.

Timdi, who flew back to Cameroon last week, told her story as international outcry escalated over a video which appeared to show African migrants being traded as slaves in Libya.

allafrica.com reports

Kabila says he never ‘promised’ to hold elections in DRC

Berlin – Congolese President Joseph Kabila on Saturday said he had never “promised anything” about whether to hold elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo, seeming to back away from a deal to hold a vote this year.

Joseph Kabella

Joseph Kabila, the leader of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

“I have not promised anything at all,” Kabila told the German weekly Der Spiegel in a rare media interview. “I wish to organise elections as soon as possible”.

“We want perfect elections, not just elections,” he said, adding that the government was in the process of registering voters and that it was “going well”.

Under a power-sharing agreement brokered by the influential Catholic Church on New Year’s Eve, Kabila, 45, is due to remain in office until elections at the end of 2017, after he refused to step down at the end of his final two-term mandate last December.

But the issue has sparked tensions across the vast mineral-rich nation of 71 million people, where social and economic crises have all but rendered election deadlines little more than hypothetical.

Constitutional change 

In a speech in April, Kabila pledged that “the elections will take place”. However, two months earlier, his budget minister Pierre Kangudia had said it would cost the country $1.8 billion to hold elections this year, according to the BBC.

The opposition has repeatedly accused Kabila of delaying elections in order to remain in power.

In his interview with reporters in Kinshasa on Saturday, Kabila dismissed the idea of changing the constitution to allow him to run for a possible third five-year term.

“I am very clear on this. All this blah blah over a constitutional change is total nonsense,” he said. “Up to this point, we have not at all broached the debate” over pursuing a public referendum on changing the constitution.

But Kabila would not definitively say whether the idea of a third mandate was off the table. “That depends on what we really mean by third mandate,” the 45-year-old leader said.

“In any case, we don’t have any intention of undermining the constitution. And how would I get a third mandate if we don’t undermine the constitution?”

Kabila has run one of the world’s least developed countries since the 2001 assassination of his father Laurent. The postponement of the presidential election led to protests in September that left some 50 people dead.

The above story was first published here

Political tension brings DRC capital to standstill

Kinshasa – Democratic Republic of Congo’s normally teeming capital Kinshasa came to a standstill on Monday as people stayed home in fear of violence after the government banned a planned protest against President Joseph Kabila.

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Democratic Republic of Congo president Joseph Kabila

Shops were shuttered and streets empty in the city of 10 million people at midday, with security forces posted at key intersections.

“With police everywhere I decided to stay home,” street vendor Brel Kabeya told AFP.

Police on Sunday slapped a ban on political protests and warned that gatherings of 10 or more “will be broken up” after the main opposition party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), called for countrywide anti-Kabila rallies on Monday.

There was no sign of a protest in Kinshasa, however, or in Lubumbashi, DRC’s second city, where police and troops were out in force and many shops shuttered.

In the eastern city of Goma, police clashed with protesters trying to build barricades and burn tyres.

Tension has been mounting across the vast mineral-rich nation of 71 million people since December, when Kabila’s second and final term officially ended but elections failed to be held.

On New Year’s Eve, pro-government and opposition groups agreed to a deal brokered by the influential Roman Catholic Church that sought to avert a full-fledged crisis.

It said Kabila, 45, would remain in office until elections in late 2017, ruling in tandem with a transitional watchdog and a new premier chosen from within the ranks of the opposition “Rassemblement” (Unity) coalition.

But the death of coalition leader, veteran UDPS chief Etienne Tshisekedi, held up the deal.

And meanwhile the coalition has struggled to live up to its name, flying apart over a push by Tshisekedi’s son, Felix, to take over the party helm.

Last week, Kabila added to the tension by naming UDPS dissident Bruno Tshibala as the new opposition prime minister, a move slammed by Felix Tshisekedi, who on Sunday left the country.

Tshibala had been excluded from the UDPS and the coalition for opposing him.

Report by News24

CAR in dire need of humanitarian assistance, NRC warns.

With the upsurge in violence and spread of hot spots, the humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) is deteriorating and unlike other conflict – stricken countries like South Sudan and Syria, CAR seemed to have leapfrogged the aforementioned according to the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).

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Humanitarian crisis in Central African Republic

The Central African country plunged into violence since September 2016 up to the first quarter of 2017, more than 100,000 newly displaced people have been registered, bringing the number of IDPs to 402,240 in the country according to the report. This implies that one in every five Central Africans is either displaced internally or is a refugee in neighboring countries.

The Minister of Humanitarian, Social Affairs and National Reconciliation, Virginie Baikoua and the Acting Humanitarian Coordinator for CAR, Michel Yao, at a briefing session for donors on the humanitarian situation held on 15 March 2017 in Yaoundé, Cameroon said, CAR should not be left as a forgotten or neglected country. “Let us not leave Central African Republic to become a forgotten or neglected crisis by the International Community”

Syria under Bashar al-Assad and South Sudan under Salva Kiir are the countries which have seen the horrendous carnage and human debris of man-made economic and political turmoil. As the mess triggered by the west continues to rock parts of Africa and Middle East, Faustin-Archange Touadéra is failing to protect his people from the dirty jawbones of bellicose bullies.

In this regard, Michel Yao and Virginie Baikoua reiterated their call for continued generosity of donors to better respond to the new needs. This will also allow partners to respond to new and protracted emergencies in the country. “Such will help us to rewrite a new narrative to the rest of the world and a new hope for the Central Africans” concluded Virginie Baikoua.

Read the official report by the NRC here

Congolese politicians scramble for control as violence ramps up again

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is still struggling to bring an end to months of torrid political wrangling.

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Ever since the incumbent president, Joseph Kabila, began to delay and obstruct scheduled elections that could eject him from office, the country has been stuck in political limbo. And while a peace deal to set a proper plan for the election has now been agreed, events are still moving at a dizzying pace.

First, the Pope and the church dramatically intervened to broker the deal, which (at least in theory) guarantees that Kabila will step down after the much-delayed election is held in 2018.

Then Etienne Tshisekedi, leader of the opposition umbrella movement Rassemblement (the Rally), suddenly died. Soon afterwards, Moïse Katumbe, a presidential candidate who fled the DRC after being sentenced to three years in prison, returned to Kinshasa for Tshisekedi’s funeral. Everyone is still guessing what his intentions really are.

As Congolese politics gets ever more complex and fraught, violence and oppression have become the norm across swathes of this massive country. Regrettably, the movements and forces behind it are too numerous to survey in much detail – but a few stand out.

Central Congo is seeing intense fighting between the state and the followers of the late rebel leader Kamwina Nsapu; hundreds of people have been killed and many more displaced. The violence has been condemned by the country’s UN Stabilisation Mission, but to little effect. It is more than matched in the east of the country, where various Maï-Maï rebel groups are still furious with the Congolese army for arresting their leader, David Maranata, at the start of 2017. They have been stepping up their attacks with a vengeance ever since.

Read more on this story here

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Mbeki ‘hands-off in DRC’, but wants to see peace

Johannesburg – Former president Thabo Mbeki is still interested in seeing peace and democracy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but he would not get involved in issues there.

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thabo-mbeki

Former South Africa’s president Thabo Mbeki

 

Two human rights organisations have asked for solidarity and assistance from Mbeki and the Thabo Mbeki Foundation in the quest to pressure for elections in that country to take place this year according to a multi-party agreement on 31 December 2016.

Mbeki’s spokesperson, Mukoni Ratshitanga, said although the former president “remains keenly interested in peace, democracy and the all-round development of the sister African country, the DRC, he is not currently involved in the DRC”.

During his term as president, Mbeki helped facilitate peace talks and the Sun City Agreement in 2002, and South Africa also gave logistical and other assistance to the country in the subsequent two elections.

South Africa has also contributed troops to the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the east of the country.

Lack of funds 

Tshiswaka Masoka from the Lubambashi-based Research Institute on Human Rights at a recent briefing in Johannesburg blamed DRC president Joseph Kabila for causing a “crisis” in the country, after the country missed its December deadline for organising elections.

The country’s electoral body has complained of a lack of funds and also said it had to do a census, which would take at least 18 months.

This has, however, fuelled suspicion that Kabila was trying to extend his term longer than what is constitutionally allowed.

Masoka said Kabila had been trying to exercise power “outside the constitutional framework”.

He said the mandates of senators and members of the National Assembly have expired, so in order to keep their power they have to keep from asking questions about Kabila’s rule.

Masoka also said the military and police had been used to violently suppress anti-government protests.

“The only chance to implement the (December) agreement is based on the people, churches and international community’s support and the pressure on politicians to respect it,” Masoka said.

The death of prominent opposition figure Étienne Tshisekedi last month has left a vacuum in opposition ranks and has added to the challenges of implementing the agreement, he said.

This and more on News24

Congo-Kinshasa: Opposition Leader Tshisekedi Dies At 84

Longtime opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi has died in Brussels, after traveling there last week for a medical check-up. In Kinshasha, police used tear gas on his supporters who had gathered to mourn their hero.

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Congolese citizens march after the death of main opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi

Tshisekedi was a crusading voice for political pluralism and democracy in Congo, whose politics since independence in 1960 from Belgium has been marred by foreign intervention, civil war, coups and authoritarian rule.

Despite serving as prime minister under dictator Mobutu Sese Seko in the country then known as Zaire in the 1990s, he also challenged his one-party rule.

As the first organized opposition platform, the UDPS endured harsh repression and Tshisekedi was repeatedly imprisoned.

Mobutu was later overthrown by Rwanda, Uganda and other forces and Tshisekedi went to be the main civilian opponent of Laurent Kabila, who took power in 1997, and his son, President Joseph Kabila, who has ruled since 2001.

Police move in on mourners

About 100 supporters gathered outside the headquarters of Tshisekedi’s party, the Union of Democracy and Social Progress, following his death on Wednesday.

“Our leader is dead. We have no other leader, like Tshitshi, who can fight without the need for guns. How could he die in Belgium?” asked UDPS activist, Yves, using Tshisekedi’s nickname.

Security forces moved in firing tear gas, forcing dozens of protesters to take refuge inside the building.

Eventually those inside were forced to leave after a police officer threatened to open fire at them.

Hospitalized in Belgium

Tshisekedi, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s longtime opposition chief, died in Brussels after flying there on January 24 for medical treatment, the party said.

Radio France International said the 84-year-old died of a pulmonary embolism while in hospital.

He had previously stayed in Belgium for two years for health reasons, but had made a triumphant return home in July, where hundreds of thousands took to the streets to welcome him.

Campaigning till the end

He had recently campaigned against Kabila’s refusal to step down at the end of his second term in December, which has seen dozens die in anti-government protests.

Kabila is due to stay in power until elections, which were initially due last November, are held by the end of this year.

The opposition coalition he headed is negotiating the next steps in a power-sharing deal agreed on New Year’s Eve to avoid fresh violence.

The deal, brokered allows Kabila to stay in office until late 2017 in tandem with a transitional body and a new premier, yet to be agreed.

Tshisekedi’s son, Felix, is tipped to be named prime minister under the proposals.

More on allafrica.com