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UGANDA: freedom of expression abuse

Brussels 21.01.2021 The European Union is calling for Ugandan officials to lift bans on social media networks imposed in the context of the highly disputed elections. Previously the EU condemned the action by the government to shut down internet which had violated the Ugandan citizens and observers right to expression and information.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni announced that the government had shut down social media. On January 9, Facebook deleted dozens of pro-Ugandan government accounts, saying they were “fake.” Museveni characterized Facebook’s action as arrogant. (Image: spokesperson of the European Commission).

Uganda: Declaration by the High Representative Josep Borrell on behalf of the European Union on the elections
The European Union (EU) takes note of the results of the presidential elections declared by the Electoral Commission in Uganda:

“The EU welcomes that no major violent incidents were reported on election day but regrets that the disproportionate role given to security forces during the elections brought forth violence in the pre-electoral period, harassment of opposition leaders, suppression of civil society actors and media, and the raiding of a domestic observers office. Access to social media was disturbed, and a full internet blackout disrupted freedom of expression, freedom of information, and regular economic and social activities. In particular, this severely hampered the work of journalists, observers, party agents and others expected to report on the polling results and scrutinise them.

The EU calls on the Government of Uganda to respect the freedom of expression and the right to peaceful and safe assembly, including the free movement of all political actors and their supporters. The EU is gravely concerned by the continued harassment of political actors and parts of civil society. In line with its laws, international commitments and obligations, the Government must ensure that security services act with restraint, that any violations or abuses are duly and impartially investigated, and that those responsible are held to account.

Pending the final results of the electoral process including the parliamentary and local elections, the EU calls on all parties to refrain from any form of violence as well as from statements and actions that may incite violence, and for election challenges and complaints to be addressed in an independent and transparent manner through the available constitutional and legal remedies”.

Libya: New head of EU border mission

Natalina Cea was appointed Head of Mission of the EU Border Assistance Mission (EUBAM) in Libya. She will take up her duties on 1 February 2021 succeeding Vincenzo Tagliaferri, who has been Head of Mission since 1 September 2016.

Natalina Cea is an Italian civil servant who has worked at a senior level for more than 20 years, both in Italy – as Director of the International Cooperation and Technical Assistance Office of the Italian Customs Administration – and internationally, leading missions, programs and projects in the civilian security sector, particularly in the field of border management and related security and justice issues.

EUBAM Libya, a civilian Mission under the Common Security and Defence Policy, was launched on 22 May 2013. It is tasked with contributing to the Libyan authorities’ efforts to disrupt organised criminal networks involved in smuggling of migrants, human trafficking and terrorism. The mission coordinates and implements projects with international partners in the fields of border management, law enforcement and criminal justice.

Today’s decision was taken by the Political and Security Committee.

Borrell: CAR consolidation for peace

Brussels 27.12.2020 The Central African Republic elections are a crucial step for the “consolidation of democracy and peace”, the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell wrote in his Twitter micro blog. He called for the “mobilization of voters and the responsibility of all actors for credible, transparent, inclusive and peaceful elections”, especially mentioning the European Union – African Union ties in support of the democratic transition.

Meanwhile the former Central African Republic president Francois Bozize (pictured) backs the rebels, and urges people against voting in presidential and legislative elections today, AFP Africa reports.

Francois Bozize, president of the Central African Republic from 2003 to 2013 and a participant in two previous attempted coups d’etat, returned from exile in 2019 to run for his old job. In December, just three weeks ahead of the election, Bozize was barred by the Constitutional Court from running again. The court ruled that he had failed to meet the “good morality” requirement for candidates because of an international warrant for his arrest and UN sanctions on charges of assassination and torture. He has since been accused of plotting a new coup.

Despite a series of attacks in the run-up to the Central African Republic’s presidential and legislative elections — the first since a fragile peace deal was reached between the government and rebels in February 2019 — as well as threats against the centers where voter cards are distributed, the possibility of assaults on polling places and the killings of three UN peacekeepers on Saturday, the national elections authority, ANE, has reported that the vote will go on.

Despite threats against voting offices and polling places, the Central African Republic’s election authority has said Sunday’s, December 27, vote will go ahead. According to press reports Mankeur Ndiaye, the UN’s special envoy for CAR said the situation was under the control of the UN Blue Helmets, together with the Central African armed forces and the Central African domestic security forces, such as gendarmes and police. They were on the scene to react to any attacks or strategies of harassment by certain armed groups in alliance with Francois Bozize, the goal of which was to obstruct the election process by preventing Central African citizens from receiving their voting cards and going to polling places on December 27.

“We face attacks every day, but our response has been overwhelming” Mankeur Ndiaye concluded.

ZAMBIA: EU calls for investigation

Brussels, 24.12.2020 “On Wednesday 23 December, Zambian Police dispersed a large group of supporters of the opposition by use of force. Two people are confirmed to have died. The EU expresses its condolences to their families” says the statement of the spokesperson of the European External Action Service – the official body of the the EU diplomacy.

The Inspector General of Police has committed to investigate the circumstances of these events. The investigation – conducted according to the laws of Zambia – should be comprehensive and open to scrutiny. This is especially important as Zambia approaches an election year, where respect for the Rule of Law and the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms will be critical for an inclusive, transparent and credible process.

The EU reaffirms the importance it attaches to its partnership with Zambia, a force for peace and stability in Southern Africa, and with the Zambian people”.

DJIBOUTI: Borrell on EU-IGAD partnership

Brussels 20.12.2020 “The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) leaders are meeting in Djibouti today at a time when the region has pulled together impressively to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and a desert locust invasion. And at a time, when the stability of the region is threatened by conflicts, ancient border disputes and a diplomatic stand-off” reads the statement of the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell on the IGAD Summit in Djibouti.

The European Union joins the millions across the region affected by the current crises, in placing their faith in today’s summit. We support all efforts to encourage dialogue and to silence guns.

As IGAD’s most significant international partner, we also hope that the outcome of today’s meeting will bring the region a step closer to finding a sustainable solution to the ongoing crises, in line with respect for international commitments and, in particular, international humanitarian law.

Regional organisations depend on their members’ mutual legal commitments. The solidarity that binds the IGAD Member States together is crucial for future decisive action”.

The 38th IGAD extraordinary Summit of Heads of State and Governments has opened in Djibouti today, chaired by Sudanese Prime Minister Dr.Abdullah Hamdok, and attended by the African Union Commission Chairperson Mousa Faki.

The recent rift between Kenya and Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan, the old conflict between Eritrea and Djibouti, in addition to the Tigray region crisis, will be on table of the the summit of the The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) of East African Countries.

The Summit is taking place few days after the military operations of the federal troops in Tigray region of Ethiopia have been concluded, however the the unfolding humanitarian crisis is still going on, raising concerns of the international community facing urgent needs of tens of thousands of displaced, and refugees.

Ethiopia 10M reward for TPLF ‘wanted’

Brussels 19.12.2020 Ethiopian authorities offered a 10 million birr (app.€200,000) reward on Friday, December 18, for information on the location of the heads of the leading party in northern Tigray region. The reward for information, leading to the key figures of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) was announced on state-run broadcaster EBC and tweeted by a government taskforce.

TPLF leaders, highly likely hiding in surrounding the capital city Mekelle mountains since they abandoned it on Novembrer 28, had insist that they continue resistance.

Thousands of people are believed to have been killed and nearly a million fled their homes after two years of feuding between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government and the Tigray region degraded in a military assault in early November.

Aid agencies have warned of a humanitarian crisis unfolding in Tigray, where about 600,000 people were depended on food aid even before the conflict erupted.

The United Nations and other agencies are still pressing for safe access to most of the Tigray region.

The U.N. World Food Programme sent 11 trucks worth of food to two Eritrean refugee camps in the southern part of Tigray that arrived in the camps on Wednesday, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.

Despite the arrival of some aid, needs are increasing, OCHA spokesman Saviano Abreu said. “People have now been living for more than six weeks with no running water, no access to health services, no cash and very limited access to food.”

He said the United Nations was still negotiating with the Ethiopian government for full and unhindered access and reiterated the global body’s call for all parties to allow all aid groups into Tigray.

There are no possibilities to re-establish contacts with Tigray journalists, because Abiy Ahmed has blocked telecom, in spite of the repeated calls from international community to reconnect all of Tigray.
Over six weeks the population of the region suffers consequences of shutdown of telecom, absence of humanitarian aid, food, fuel, medicine, portable water, electricity, and bank services. All contacts of Africa Diplomatic Magazine from Mekelle have been silent for six weeks.

Mozambique in MEPs focus

Brussels 15.12.2020 “The crisis in the northern part of Mozambique is already causing more than half a million displaced people and more than 2,000 deaths” the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell said, while debating the situation with Mozambique with the Members of the European Parliament in Brussels.

“And we, the European Union, continue to try to help through the humanitarian, development and peace-building axis, defending human rights at the centre of our response.

As if that were not enough, Cabo Delgado, one of the poorest provinces in Mozambique, with a tremendously fragile social structure, was devastated by Cyclone Kenneth in 2019. This has only aggravated a situation that is now complicated by the extension of the terrorism that comes from the north, from Somalia.

We have specialised teams working on the situation in Mozambique. We have permanent contacts with the government and with international institutions, the United Nations, the African Union and the United States.

We have allocated 100 million euros in the resilience program with the government to respond to the socio-economic consequences of COVID-19. And, of course, we are ready to study the possibility of contributing more resources.

This year we have already contributed 37 million euros in humanitarian aid, primarily to Cabo Delgado.

We are strengthening cooperation with all countries in the region, combating the impact of human trafficking – which, unfortunately, will increase with this situation – and helping to implement the Maputo peace agreement between the Mozambican government and RENAMO.
But the prospects are not positive, ladies and gentlemen. The situation in Mozambique is deteriorating under the protection and heat of natural disasters and of a country with extremely serious government difficulties.

In reality, it is the entire façade from the Horn of Africa to the Indian Ocean that is being the scene of an extension of conflicts and the spread of terrorist forces.

We are very concerned about the situation. It does not appear that we have improved in the Somalia area to the south. The recent tensions between Somalia and Kenya are not going to help either, but within Mozambique we must surely take stronger measures.

I have asked the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Portugal [Augusto Santos Silva], who will assume the presidency shortly, to travel to the region as my personal envoy – since I cannot go due to scheduling reasons – and I have asked him as colleague of the [Foreign Affairs] Council, please pay special attention during your presidency to what is happening in that country, which Portugal knows very well.

Is what I can tell you. I cannot bring you many positive elements, just rest assured that we mobilize all the resources we have to act in Mozambique”.

Saharawi: EU for UN-led talks

Brussels 14.12.2020 “Western Sahara future should be solved in political negotiations. We call for quick resumption of negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations (UN) to find lasting and mutually acceptable political solution to the issue”, the spokesperson of the European External Actions Service said, while reacting upon recent events around the status of Western Sakhara.
(Image: illustration).
The EU diplomat placed the issue into broader international context, not limiting it to the 27 bloc to Mediterranean neighborhood, while commenting on the future of Saharawi people, and possible autonomy status within the Kingdom of Morocco.
(Image: illustration, archive)

The EU diplomacy spokesperson also added that the negotiations should be conducted in compliance with the U.N. resolutions on Western Sahara, in particular the last one from October 2020. (Adopting resolution 2548 (2020) by 13 votes in favour to none against, with 2 abstentions (Russian Federation, South Africa), the Council extended the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 31 October 2021).
“In this context we are looking forward to appointment of the new personal envoy of the United Nations in order to pursue this political process, but the future determination of the status of the Western Sahara, the future of its people – from European point of view – should be decided in political process under the auspices of the U.N.

The Sahrawis largely depend on outside help to survive. In the remote region where the refugee camps are located, access to basic resources such as food, water, healthcare, housing, and education is limited. The climate in the desert is extremely harsh. 

A 2019 nutrition survey (World Food Programme, June 2019) found increasing malnutrition among the Sahrawi refugee children, with global acute malnutrition among under the age of 5 at 7.6% compared to 4.7% in 2016. Half of the number children and women also suffer from anaemia.

The largely isolated camps offer almost no employment opportunities, making refugees dependent on remittances and international aid. In such a remote location, logistics also play a key role to ensure regular distributions of relief to the refugee population. 

Social cohesion and peace are extremely fragile in the camps, with young people growing frustrated by the lack of opportunities or change due to the political stalemate. Livelihood activities are therefore crucial to reduce the risk of radicalisation or social unrest. The Sahrawi desert refugee camps are prone to natural hazards such as flash floods and sandstorms. In February 2020, it was confirmed the coronavirus had spread to Algeria, leading to curfew measures across the country and in the camps.

DRC: clashes in Parliament

Brussels 08.12.2020 Congo’s parliament descended into chaos on December 8 as rival political groups threw chairs and buckets in a brawl that laid bare the tensions caused by the incumbent President Felix Tshisekedi’s to terminate his alliance with his predecessor, Joseph Kabila.

Tshisekedi announced on December 6 scheduled to cancel his governing coalition with allies of Kabila, while Kabila’s supporters claimed the move was illegal.

The standoff has raised fears of instability in the Republic whose economy has been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, and whose recent history has been touched by repeated civil wars and political upheaval.

The parliament fight broke out in the main hall of the building between lawmakers and supporters from the two parties, one of whom appeared to be wielding a machete.

Tshisekedi’s supporters, some with sartorial look, hurled chairs, wooden batons and plastic buckets up a staircase toward Kabila partisans who bounced back.

One man was carried away bleeding injury on the head. The police had to disperse the belligerent groups with tear gas.

The two camps have a long history of bad blood. Tshisekedi and his late father were longtime opponents of Kabila, who governed from 2001 to January 2019.

Tshisekedi agreed to the coalition after his victory in the disputed 2018 election, in which he defeated Kabila’s chosen successor but Kabila allies won majorities in parliament, entitling them to most cabinet posts.

Frustrated by his inability to move on with his agenda, Tshisekedi said that he would try to form a new majority in parliament and, if unsuccessful, would call for new parliamentary elections.

Kabila, who stepped down last year under domestic and international pressure not to seek a third mandate, is eligible to run again in 2023.

Ethiopia announces Tigray defeat

Brussels 05.12.2020 Ethiopia government announced it had captured or killed most commanders of a Tigray region militia, while Tigray’s local leader countered on Friday, December 5, that civilians in Mekelle, the region’s capital, were protesting against looting by occupying troops. (Image: Tigray region, source: social media).

In the context of the ban to press to enter the area, it is impossible to verify the information, while neither of the warring parties presented any evidence for their assertions about the month-long military operation in the mountainous region bordering Eritrea and Sudan. The local power station was bombed, and there has been electricity shortage since; while the internet shutdown is still in place, preventing Tigray to communicate with the rest of word.

In spite of the ongoing calls of the European Union, the UN and NGOs, the access of journalists, and humanitarian workers to Tigray region has not been granted.
“…The international humanitarian law must be upheld under all circumstances and any violations be accounted for in line with the international standards and instruments”, the European External Actions Service spokesperson said, while responding to unfolding crisis in Tigray region.

“… We are following the situation in Ethiopia with great attention and coordinating very closely with the regional and international actors, our message is clear and focused on the secession of hostilities, and of the ethnic-targeted violence, protection of the civilians, in particular IDPs and refugees” the EU diplomacy spokesperson reiterated, however in vain.

An assault of federal troops upon Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s orders against Tigray militia loyal to the region’s ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), started on November 4. Thousands of people are believed to perish while more 50,000 refugees have crossed to neighbouring Sudan.

TPLF leaders, who relay on strong popular support in Tigray, appear to have retreated to surrounding mountains and declared they have begun a guerrilla-style resistance.

Debretsion Gebremichael, who is leading the Tigray militia, reportedly sent a text message about mass protests in Mekelle, where 500,000 inhabitants stood up against the looting by Eritrean soldiers.

“Eritrean soldiers are everywhere,” he said, Reuters reports, repeating an accusation that President Isaias Afwerki has sent soldiers over the border to back Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed against their mutual foe.

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