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Omicron: EU lifts SA travel restrictions

Brussels 10.01.2022 European Union member states have agreed to lift the travel ban on flights to southern African countries, which will allow more voyages to resume.

The decision lifts the so-called emergency brake introduced in November, France, which holds the rotating EU presidency, informed in Tweet micro blog. Travellers from the region will still be subject to health measures applicable to travellers from third countries.

European nations had suspended most air travel from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe as the WHO and scientists were in process to assess the severity of the omicron variant. The bloc maintained the limits even after cases continued to surge around the world, despite an outcry from the region.

Ethiopia: Borrell welcomes opposition leaders release

Brussels 10.01.2022 “The release of some political opposition leaders and the establishment of the National Dialogue Commission are positive steps towards ending the ongoing conflict in Northern Ethiopia. The European Union has always stressed that the only option for a peaceful and long lasting solution is an independent, comprehensive and inclusive National Dialogue that leaves no one behind” reads the statement by the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell (pictured) on the latest developments.

“However, despite these positive steps, the conflict continues, including an airstrike today hitting a camp for internally displaced people killing and wounding many civilians. Immediate and unimpeded humanitarian access must be allowed to save lives, as no trucks carrying humanitarian assistance has entered Tigray since mid-December”.

“All parties must seize the moment to swiftly end the conflict and enter into dialogue. The EU stands ready to work with the African Union, the United Nations, and other international partners to support this process”.

Sudan: Abdalla Hamdok resigns

Brussels 02.01.2022 Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said on Sunday, January 2, he was resigning, less than two months after being reinstated as part of a political agreement with the military.
In a televised speech, he said a roundtable discussion was needed to come to a new agreement for Sudan’s political transition to democracy.

EU additional €15M aid to Sahel

Brussels 23.12.2021 The EU has allocated €15 million in additional humanitarian funding to Africa’s Sahel region, in response to the unprecedented food crisis affecting more than 8.7 million people in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Mauritania.

Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič, said “Earlier this year, the EU reaffirmed its commitment to the Sahel region, and reiterated the importance of our partnership with the region. The additional humanitarian aid allocated today is an indication of our readiness to help meet the growing needs – and funding shortfalls – in Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger, and provide assistance to the most vulnerable members of the population in the Sahel.”

The number of people suffering from the food crisis in Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali and Mauritania is at a record high compared to previous years and initial estimates point to a major food crisis during the 2022 lean season, the period between harvests that usually lasts from May to August. The World Food Programme (WFP) reports critical funding gaps affecting its ability to assist people during the lean season in the Sahel.

The funding announced today comes on top of €54 million already allocated this year to these four Sahel countries for food/nutrition. The additional funds allocated by the EU will contribute to scaling up life-saving assistance for the most vulnerable people in need, mainly people affected by conflict and insecurity and those forced to flee their homes. This funding will address most acute needs in food and nutrition and will contribute to an early response to reduce the impact of a major humanitarian crisis in 2022.

Humanitarian needs in the Sahel region (Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Nigeria) are rising due to increasingly violent conflicts, deep poverty, climate change, and unprecedented food insecurity and malnutrition. In addition to the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19, weak health systems are increasingly strained, and humanitarian needs are growing.

In 2021, the EU allocated a total of €237.4 million to the Sahel. Part of this funding has been used to help tackle the food crisis in the region, now in its fourth consecutive year, mainly affecting people in conflict-hit areas. EU humanitarian assistance supports people affected by conflict and insecurity, providing them with shelter, emergency food and nutritional aid, access to health care and clean water, to treatment for malnourished children, and protection for the vulnerable. In addition, EU funding ensures safe access to education for the children affected by armed conflicts.

In 2021, prior to the allocation of this additional funding, the funding allocated to these four countries for food/nutrition was:

– Burkina Faso:€19.7 million

– Mali:€15 million

– Mauritania:€6.9 million

– Niger:€12.3 million

Ethiopia: UN Human Rights commission

Brussels 18.12.2021 Following a resolution presented by the European Union the United Nations Human Rights Council will establish an international commission of human rights experts on Ethiopia. An important step forward to ensure accountability of the perpetrators and justice for the victims” the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell wrote on his Twitter micro blog.

A joint investigation by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and the UN Human Rights Office has found that there are reasonable grounds to believe that all parties to the conflict in Tigray have, to varying degrees, committed violations of international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law, some of which may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

In a report published on December 3, which examines the devastating impact the conflict has had on civilians, the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) details a series of violations and abuses, including unlawful killings and extra-judicial executions, torture, sexual and gender-based violence, violations against refugees, and forced displacement of civilians.

The report covers the period from 3 November 2020, when the armed conflict began between the Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF), the Eritrean Defence Force (EDF), the Amhara Special Forces (ASF), the Amhara Fano and other militias on one side, and the Tigrayan Special Forces (TSF), Tigrayan militia and other allied groups on the other, until 28 June 2021 when the Ethiopian Government declared a unilateral ceasefire.

The JIT visited several locations, including Mekelle, Eastern Tigray (Wukro), Southeastern Tigray (Samre and nearby areas), Southern Tigray ( Alamata, Bora and Maichew), Western Tigray (Dansha, Humera and Mai Kadra), and Bahir Dar and Gondar in the Amhara region, as well as Addis Ababa. The JIT conducted 269 confidential interviews with victims and witnesses of alleged violations and abuses, and other sources; and held over 60 meetings with federal and regional officials, representatives of international organisations, NGOs, community-based committees, medical personnel, and other sources.

The JIT faced several security, operational, and administrative challenges in carrying out its work, in particular being unable to carry out all planned visits to parts of Tigray. The report acknowledges with gratitude the many victims and witnesses who shared their experiences with the JIT, and thanks the Ethiopian and non-governmental entities for their cooperation.

“As the conflict expands with more reports of violations and abuses, this report presents an opportunity for all parties to acknowledge responsibility and commit to concrete measures on accountability, redress for victims and the search for a sustainable solution to end the suffering of millions,” said Daniel Bekele, Chief Commissioner of the EHRC. “EHRC remains engaged in monitoring the human rights situation since end of June and will be sharing its findings in due course,” Bekele said.

“The Tigray conflict has been marked by extreme brutality. The gravity and seriousness of the violations and abuses we have documented underscore the need to hold perpetrators accountable on all sides,” said Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“As the conflict has escalated, with civilians as ever caught in the middle, it is vital that all parties heed the repeated calls to end hostilities and seek a lasting ceasefire,” said Bachelet, who is today also issuing a separate update on developments since the June cut-off date of the joint report.

Ghana President addresses Europarliament

Strasbourg 15.12.2021 President Nana Akufo-Addo called for a more equal trade relationship with Europe that would empower African countries to build their economies and move beyond development aid. The Ghana leader addressed the Members of the European Parliament at the last calendar Plenary in Strasbourg on December 14.

During a formal sitting on Tuesday, Ghanaian President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo expressed his hope that the EU and the African Union can work on a joint strategy and define a new partnership. African countries should not be just a receiver of help from Europe, but they should sit side by side at the decision making table as equals.

He stressed that investing in Africa and helping it develop its economy would bring huge export opportunities for European companies. “We need to rely on ourselves and get rid of the image of beggars living on charity, aid and handouts, and make better and more intelligent use of our abundant national resources to pull ourselves out of poverty and into prosperity”, said President Akufo-Addo.

Talking about the COVID-19 pandemic, President Akufo-Addo noted that Africa has been caught in “vicious vaccine politics”. While stressing that Africa is grateful for vaccine donations through systems such as Covax, he pointed to the “unsavoury politics of vaccine nationalism” that could restrict access and potentially derail efforts to contain the pandemic.

On the subject of migration, President Akufo-Addo said that instead of investing money in preventing migrants from coming from Africa to Europe, funding would be better spent in supporting the African economy and encouraging people to stay at home by offering them economic opportunity.

EU: South Africa in view

Brussels 13.12.2021 Today the Foreign affairs ministers will hold a comprehensive discussion on EU-Africa relations, touching on the overall situation on the continent and the challenges it faces in fields such as: security, development, demographic growth, health, democratic evolution, and engagement at a multilateral level.

South Africa’s president has condemned travel bans enacted against his country and its neighbours over the new coronavirus variant Omicron.

Cyril Ramaphosa said he was “deeply disappointed” by the action, which he described as unjustified, and called for the bans to be urgently lifted.

The UK, EU and US are among those who have imposed travel bans.

As nearly two years of restrictions have impacted South Africa’s travel and hospitality sector, the industry and travellers need clarity on what to expect over the key festive season, says Euan McNeil, managing director of the Flight Centre Travel Group.

In an open letter addressed to president Cyril Ramaphosa, McNeil said that a lack of certainty around the level of restrictions – and when they could be introduced – meant many prospective travellers were not making holiday plans.

“We have been here before. December 2020 brought with it beach bans, stricter curfews and alcohol bans. Six months later, during our third wave largely driven by the Delta variant, leisure travel to and from Gauteng was prohibited.

“Over the past 20 months of navigating the catastrophic impacts of Covid-19, the tourism and travel industry has suffered the collateral damage of these regulations aimed at stemming the spread of Covid-19.”

On Thursday (10 December), South Africa reported 22,391 new cases of Covid-19, taking the total reported to 3,093,452.

Deaths have reached 90,060 (+22), while recoveries have climbed to 2,870,329, leaving the country with a balance of 133,063 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 26,917,603 (+135,961).

Omicron: AU calls to lift travel restrictions

Brussels 08.12.2021 The African Union called for an urgent end to travel restrictions imposed on some of its member states, saying the measures effectively penalise governments for timely data sharing in line with international health regulations.

The measures act “as a disincentive for information sharing in the future, potentially posing a threat to health security on the continent and globally,” the AU said in a statement.

Late last month, European Union states, the United States and Britain, among other nations such as Israel, imposed travel curbs on seven southern African countries after they reported several cases of the Omicron variant, which is considered highly infectious.

The Gambia: EU awaits EOM report

Brussels 08.12.2021 “The Gambia conducted Presidential elections on 4 December. The European Union welcomes the calm, peaceful, and transparent manner in which the elections were conducted. The high voter turnout shows the commitment of the Gambian people to the democratic path that they have taken since December 2016”.

“The EU expects all the candidates to act in good faith, and urges all to comply with the rule of law and to use the available legal procedures if they deem necessary to challenge election outcomes”.

“The EU deployed for the first time an Election Observation Mission (EOM) to observe a presidential election. The preliminary statement of the EU EOM issued on 6 December 2021 shows where reforms are needed. We look forward to its final report that will be made public at the end of the process, including recommendations for future electoral processes”.

The EU looks forward to continuing its close cooperation with The Gambia on the path of democratic reform and national reconciliation.

EU proposes ban on South Africa flights

Brussels 26.11.2021 Concerns over a new COVID-19 variant detected in South Africa have caused new wave of travel restrictions in Italy and Germany on Friday, November 26, as Brussels demands the EU-wide flight restrictions. (Image: illustration).

The European Commission will propose to suspend air travel from southern Africa amid concerns over this particular variant, EC President Ursula Von der Leyen announced on Friday.

The proposal could be enacted in urgent procedures on Friday night, November 26.

Germany, Italy and France have already announced measures to restrict air travel from the region.

Rome has banned entry on its territory to anyone who has stayed in southern Africa during fortnight, said health minister Roberto Speranza, invoking “maximum precaution” in the face of the new variant.

The countries targeted by this measure are South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini, the Minister has underlined.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Friday, November 26, airlines coming from South Africa will only be able to transport German citizens, meaning only repatriations will be possible.

South Africa, like much of the region, has suffered through three significant pandemic waves since the beginning. While the number of new infections across the country is now still relatively low and positivity levels are under 5%, public health officials have already predicted a fourth wave because of the mutations of the virus alike the one they have discovered now.

During a news briefing, South African genomic scientists said the variant has an unusually high number of mutations, with more than 30 in the key spike protein, which is the structure the virus uses to get into the cells they attack.

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