Category Archives: Key Issues

South Africa: ‘National State of Disaster,’ President Says

South Africa has declared a “national state of disaster” because of COVID-19.

“Given the scale and the speed at which the virus is spreading, it is now clear that no country is immune from the disease or will be spared its severe impact,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said Sunday.

South Africa has 61 cases of the disease. Ramphosa said 50 of the cases were contracted by people who had traveled abroad, but the rest were contracted within South Africa. “It is concerning that we are now dealing with internal transmission of the virus,” he said.

The president said the disease could have a “potentially lasting” effect on South Africa.

In an effort to limit South Africans’ exposure to the coronavirus, South Africa has imposed a travel ban on foreign nationals from high-risk countries. Those countries include Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom and China. The ban will begin March 18, the president said.

In addition, South Africa closed 35 of its 53 land ports Monday

Source: Voice Of America

President Sahlework, Kagame Hold Talks

President Sailework Zewdie, who arrived today in Rwandan capital Kigali, held discussion with President Paul Kagame on wide range of bilateral issues.

The visit is part of the Government of Ethiopia to elucidate its position on Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) to Africa, particularly Nile Basin countries.

It is to be recalled that the government has sent high-level delegations across Europe and Africa to sustain and create clear insightful on the Renaissance Dam negotiations.

As part of the move, President Sahlework led Ethiopia’s delegation to Kenya Rwanda and now to Rwanda to expound the negotiations on GERD among Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan.

Both Kenyan and Uganda leaders reiterated the importance of ensuring the equitable and sustainable use of the Nile River waters.

Likewise, a high-level delegation led by former president Mulatu Teshome, has concluded same mission to deliver message of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to the leadership of the European Union Council and Commission as well as to French president Emmanuel Macron.

During his encounter with the EU and French officials, Mulatu explained that Ethiopia has been committed to find a win-win solution to the ongoing negotiations with lower riparian countries.

He explained at length Ethiopia’s commitment, from the outset, to promote the principles of equitable and reasonable utilization and not causing significant harm.

Mulatu further explained that based on the clear stipulation of the Declaration of Principles signed between the three parties in 2015, Ethiopia will have to continue the first filling of the GERD in parallel with the construction of the Dam.

Moreover, he expressed the need to set the record straight that Ethiopia has never backed down on the ongoing negotiations on the matter but rather requested all parties to the negotiation for more time to conclude its national consultation on the status of the negotiation.

Both the EU and the French officials have noted Ethiopia’s intent to look for a win- win solution.

They have also further affirmed the discussion has helped them understand what salient differences lay in the negotiation and expressed their wishes for the three parties to reach a mutual understanding on the matter.

The engagement is believed to have helped clear Ethiopia’s position on the status of the negotiation and get an understanding from the EU and France.

Source: Ethiopia News agency

Kenya Accuses Somalia of Border Incursion

NAIROBI – Kenya has accused Somalia of an unwarranted attack on the Kenyan border town of Mandera, in the latest territorial dispute between the neighbors. Kenya and Somalia have long accused each other of encroaching on the other’s territory and Kenya’s remarks come as it faces pressure on the future of its troops fighting al-Shabab militants inside Somalia.

Somali media report that President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo spoke by phone with Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta on the issues regarding security and that they agreed to work together on their common interests.

The conversation took place a day after the Kenyan leader accused the Horn of Africa nation of violating Kenyan borders during a clash along the Kenya-Somalia frontier. Reports say the clash took place in Somalia’s semi-autonomous state of Jubaland and involved the Somali military and fighters linked to Ahmed Madobe, president of the Jubaland region.

Mohamed Maalim Mohamud, a senator in the Kenyan town of Mandera, across the border from Jubaland, told VOA tension is still high in the area.

As of today, I am told there is a buildup of forces from both sides that soldiers of Jubaland are moving freely in our region, in our territory and building up and reinforcing themselves and anytime something can break out; it’s very serious, he said.

Mohamud also says the people of Mandera are paying the price for the unrest at the border and ongoing tension between the two countries.

People who live in that part of the town vacated that place and went for safe stay elsewhere in the town. The schools have been closed. So it’s that bad, he said.

Kenya and Somalia’s relationship has soured in recent months over the fate of Jubaland leader Madobe, who enjoys a good relationship with the government in Nairobi.

The Somali government disputes the Jubaland election of 2019, which gave Madobe another fours years to run the affairs of the state’s Middle Juba, Lower Juba, and Gedo regions.

Professor Chacha Nyaigotti Chacha specializes in diplomacy and international relations at the University of Nairobi. He says both countries need to engage each other directly.

For many years, Kenya has been hosting people from Somalia who were fleeing from molestation,” he said. “It’s very difficult for people to differentiate and find a way how they can best deal with the individuals who might be approaching them for discussions and whatever. So the bottom line then is, first of all, to recognize the central quality and the central power in Somalia and for Somalia’s central power also to recognize that Kenya is an independent country. It has borders and it has a government which is functional and therefore anything that happens must always be sanitized and be blessed by the government systems.

Separately, Kenya is considering withdrawing its troops from the African Union Mission in Somalia after eight years of fighting the Somali militant group al-Shabab. The matter is still being discussed in Kenya’s National Security Council.

We are safer when our security forces are here to defend the nation from within,” said Caleb Amisi, a legislator who sits on Kenya’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. “We went to Somalia as a matter of courtesy to our neighbors, but it was not a conventional war. We were perusing the enemy of our neighboring country. So we believe that we been able to make a milestone in that particular mandate, and it’s high time they come back and secure our territory.

Kenya sent troops to Somalia in 2011. Al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab has attacked Kenya for its involvement in supporting the AU mission in Somalia.

Source: Voice of America

Mali President Acknowledges Contacts with Jihadists

BAMAKO – Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has for the first time acknowledged contacts with jihadist insurgents, an option the government has long rejected.

“The number of deaths in the Sahel is becoming exponential and it’s time that certain paths be explored,” he said in an interview with French media due to be broadcast on Monday.

Mali has struggled to contain a jihadist revolt that broke out in the country in 2012, claiming thousands of military and civilian lives since.

But dialogue with jihadist leaders such as Amadou Koufa and Iyad Ag Ghali has long been considered beyond the pale for the government in Bamako.

In the interview, Keita appeared to have changed course on past refusals to engage jihadists.

“We are ready to build bridges for dialogue with everyone… at some point, we have to sit around a table and talk,” he said.

He said he had sent former president Dioncounda Traore “on a mission.”

“He is my high representative, so his job is to listen to everybody,” the president said.

Traore was chiefly tasked with seeing if there were people who “could be sensitive to a discourse of reason.”

However, Keita also said he was “not naive” about the likelihood of success.

“Those who order others to enter a mosque and blow themselves up in the middle of the faithful don’t have much of my esteem,” he said.

A 2017 national conference gathering Keita’s party and opposition parties urged holding direct talks with jihadists as a way to solve the crisis in Mali.

The government never followed up the recommendations, however.

Source: Voice of America

South Sudan Opposition Official Says ‘Unified Force Not Ready’

JUBA – A top South Sudanese opposition official says a unified military force will not be in place by February 22, the deadline for the country’s rival parties to form a transitional unity government.

Angelina Teny, who chairs the South Sudan Strategic Defense and Security Review Board, says the parties need six more weeks for a unified force.

Uniting the government and opposition forces into one army is a key provision of the peace agreement that President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar signed in Addis Ababa in 2018. Failure to merge the sides has been a stumbling block in efforts to create the unity government called for in the deal.

Teny says while some security arrangements of the revitalized peace agreement have been implemented, much more needs to be done.

Now there is transport and movement of combatants or forces to training centers from cantonment [sites] and from barracks. These people are now in training centers,” Teny told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus.

“Even though the forces are in the training centers, the training has not commenced yet. In order to orient them and unify them properly, it is supposed to be delivered in eight weeks, so the training will take eight weeks and the screening will probably take another week or two,” Teny said.

Teny also says implementing the security arrangements is proving to be very expensive and will require outside support.

We understand the concerns and anxiety of the donors and the funders given the nature of corruption in this country and the fear for misuse of resources. We had donors who have given in-kind support but the agreement is going to need more than in-kind support,” said Teny.

The peace deal states that the government and the opposition, known as the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in-Opposition, shall form a unified force consisting of about 83,000 soldiers and other personnel.

The deadline to form the unity government has been postponed twice by the parties due to a number of challenges, including no resolution over the number of states and their boundaries, along with security arrangements.

On Tuesday, President Kiir met with South Sudan’s s 32 state governors and told them to prepare for any eventualities according to a Juba-based newspaper, The Dawn. Observers say that statement suggests Kiir wants to resolve the long-standing dispute over the number of states and their boundaries before the February deadline.

Teny says the unity government could still be formed this month if the Kiir administration compromises on the number of states and accepts some of the opposition’s proposals.

I don’t see how a government can be formed… without some of these critical aspects. Maybe he [Kiir] has something under his sleeves with regards to the number of states that will be really welcomed, Teny told VOA.

Attempts by South Africa’s envoy to South Sudan and Deputy President David Mabuza to refer the stalemate over the states to arbitration was rejected by some of the opposition parties, who say that would only be viable if an arbitration committee finalizes its findings before the 22nd.

The SPLM-IO also proposed the demilitarization of Juba and a deployment of a third party force to safeguard some towns in the event that the military training is not completed on time. That idea was not adopted by the parties.

Kiir and SPLM-IO leader Machar are expected to meet in Addis Ababa over the weekend to try to break the deadlock on the number of states and their boundaries.

Source: Voice of America