As Rwandan-backed M23 rebels massacre and gang-rape in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who will hold them to account?
The M23 rebels are perpetrating summary killings and rapes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo – and they are doing it with the backing of the regime of Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame. That was the conclusion of Amnesty International’s investigation, released in February, into the ongoing violence against the Congolese people.
The report tells how the Mouvement du 23 Mars (M23) rebels, a group the UN says is being armed and supported by Kigali – claims denied by Kagame but supported by the US and several African and European nations – have systematically used sexual violence as a weapon to punish and humiliate its perceived enemies. The scale and brutality is shocking.
Last week, the British prime minister, Rishi Sunak, spoke to Kagame in what government advisers presented as a friendly call to discuss the UK-Rwanda “migration partnership” and “joint efforts to break the business model of criminal people smugglers and address humanitarian issues”.
The leaders committed to continue working together. Sunak and Kagame also discussed the concerning escalation of violence in the DRC and international efforts to support peace.
Very civilised. And a world apart from the interviews by Amnesty researchers with 23 rape survivors and 12 witnesses, which document a terrifying campaign of sexual violence by the M23 rebels during house-to-house raids, slaughtering every adult male they found and subjecting scores of women to rape, some of it gang-rape.
The human rights group reviewed medical records and official documents, and interviewed government officials, UN representatives and prominent humanitarian organisations about patterns of civilian killings and sexual violence in the area.
Rape and sexual violence are features of the M23’s operations, designed to punish and humiliate and to destroy the structures of community and family in the towns of Bambo, Bugina and Kishishe in North Kivu province, which the M23 is looking to overrun, as it did in 2012, when Rwanda’s former defence minister Gen James Kabarebe was named by the UN as its leader. He denied the claims.
One woman who survived an M23 raid said: “They broke through the gate of the compound and rounded up all the men, seven in total, who they killed. Five soldiers then raped us: six women and me.”
Another said she was raped by three M23 soldiers outside a church where she had sought refuge with her family after clashes between armed groups. “They singled out the men and shot them dead, including my husband and two sons. Three M23 soldiers then took me behind the church and took turns to rape me. I thought I would not survive.”
A third woman said: “I counted up to 80 bodies of men shot dead by M23 soldiers at the church. I have never seen so many corpses in my life. I fainted before I could count all of them.”
Yet another woman, a 23-year-old, described how two M23 soldiers took turns “raping me in the presence of my terrified little children. After raping me, they took all the valuables in the house and my two goats.”
Some women who resisted were killed or forced to watch their relatives die.
A recent 235-page UN report on the DRC includes aerial footage as well as photographic and video evidence, showing how Rwanda has been aiding and abetting M23 violence with cross-border supplies of artillery, weapons and ammunition. The Rwandan Defence Force (RDF), which became a partner of the Nebraska national guard in 2019, has been reinforcing and fighting alongside M23.
Amnesty says these attacks could constitute crimes against humanity, and they represent only a fraction of the violence M23 rebels are wreaking in the DRC. According to the United Nations’ refugee agency, the UNHCR, the violence has now displaced more than 800,000 Congolese people from their homes.
Some 240,000 people are living on the outskirts of Goma in makeshift sites without water and sanitation, leading the EU to set up a “humanitarian air bridge” to deliver medical and nutritional supplies, along with a range of other emergency items, the European Commission said this month.
Of the 23 rape survivors interviewed in the Amnesty report, 12 said their husbands or sons had been murdered in cold blood. Compounding this, the M23 is attacking UN peacekeepers to hinder humanitarian aid from reaching civilians in need.
Last year, M23 shot down a UN helicopter, killing eight peacekeepers on board. Last month, it targeted another UN helicopter in mid-air, killing a South African “blue helmet” and wounding another.
Despite all this, neither Kagame nor any of the M23 henchmen have been held to account for these grave violations – not during phone calls with Sunak, who still wants his migrant deportation pact with Rwanda, and not in the continued arming, funding and training of Kagame’s government and army by Britain and the US.
And so these M23 rebels continue to kill and rape Congolese people with impunity.
New Tunisian parliament to meet for 1st time since dissolution
By Rédaction Africanews and Agencies
Tunisian Mps are to convene on Monday (Mar. 13) after a two-year hiatus. The new assembly was elected by about 11% -in both rounds- of registered voters.
It will be almost impossible for the representatives to censure the government and the president will have priority in getting his laws passed.
These new dispositions are the results of reform spearheaded by president Kaies Saied, who was elected in late 2019. On the 25th of July, 2021 Saied, took on full executive power, sacked the prime minister and dissolved the Parliament.
On the 30th of March 2022, he hailed a “historic moment”, when announcing “the dissolution of the Assembly of Representatives of the people, to “preserve the state and its institutions and the Tunisian people.”
Rached Ghannouchi, the speaker of the suspended Ennahdha-dominated parliament, was then accused of having plotted against state security.
Since then, he has been investigated on multiple charges including incitement and money laundering, denying all of them.
In April 2022, he deplored the state of the nation’s democracy.
“The situation in our country is not good, the parliament has been dissolved and destroyed,” he said.
The political situation has prompted thousands of Tunisians opposed to Kaies Saied’s rule, to protest.
In a divided nation, Monday’s parliamentary session will bring together 154 new Mps.
Their political leanings remain unclear though.
After dismantling the institutional edifice put in place by the semi-parliamentary Constitution of 2014, Tunisia’s president ushered his country into the era of hyper-presidentialism
Ethiopian journalist honored by US sounds alarm on media freedom
AFP , Sunday 12 Mar 2023
An Ethiopian journalist presented an award by the United States has sounded the alarm over media freedom in her country, which Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to visit.
Meaza Mohammed, the founder of the online network Roha TV, was honored at the White House on Wednesday on International Women’s Day as part of a group receiving “International Women of Courage” awards.
Introducing her, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that Meaza “shares stories of those who are often silenced.”
“Despite three arrests in under one year, she continued to raise her voice, advocating for survivors of gender-based violence and urging accountability for crimes committed against them,” Jean-Pierre said.
In an interview with AFP, Meaza said that authorities also raided her outlet and seized everything from her office.
“This award is a big thing for me — not only for me, but for the women out there in my country,” she said.
“Because in my country, having a media (outlet) or working in (the) press is very dangerous, very difficult.”
Internet platforms including YouTube, Facebook, Telegran and TikTok have been inaccessible in Ethiopia since February 9.
The shutdown came after a dispute within the Ethiopian Orthodox Church led to calls for demonstrations against Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. The issue was resolved but the sites remain down.
The northern region of Tigray, the scene of an armed conflict with the federal government, was largely deprived of telecommunications for the two-year duration of the war.
Blinken is due in Ethiopia on Wednesday on the highest-level US visit since the war with plans to encourage the peace process.
Meaza came to prominence for her campaign for answers over the kidnapping in late 2019 of a group of students whose fate remains unknown.
The students belong to Ethiopia’s second largest ethnic group, the Amhara, and Meaza has been accused in some quarters of a pro-Amhara tilt in the ethnically diverse nation where questions of identity have become increasingly incendiary.
Speaking to AFP in Washington, Meaza denounced “ethnic cleansing” against the Amhara, who have long held privileged positions in Ethiopia’s economic, political and cultural life.
An Amhara militia known as the Fano has also been accused of numerous abuses.
S.African insurer Sanlam reports 3% rise in annual profit
JOHANNESBURG, March 9 (Reuters) – South African insurer Sanlam (SLMJ.J) said on Thursday its full-year profit rose 3% as the benefits from lower claims in its life insurance business were offset by a weaker general insurance performance.
The company said its headline earnings per share, a profit measure, stood at 454 South African cents in the year to Dec. 31, compared with 438 cents a year earlier.
South Africa, the largest and the most advanced insurance market in Africa, is home to companies that account for more than two-thirds of total premiums collected across the continent.
But a substantial part of those premiums is invested in local government bonds, corporate debt and equity, making returns unpredictable, especially when South Africa is being battered by high inflation, low commodity prices and crippling power cuts.
Sanlam, the country’s top life insurer, said while its annual earnings from its life insurance business increased by 25%, its general insurance profit declined by 32%.
Its general insurance business, which contributes roughly 15% to overall profits, took a hit due to a local factors which coincided with an increase in inflation globally.
Floods in the eastern part of the country, heavy rains, claims related to power surges after blackouts end and luxury car thefts ate into its general insurance earnings, CEO Paul Hanratty told Reuters in an interview.
“And then the big story around the world was inflation,” he said.
The insurer has a “pretty optimistic” view of 2023, with the environment to be tough in the short term but by the end of the year the situation would get better, Hanratty said.
The company announced an 8% increase in its dividend to 360 cents per share.
Its share price in early trade was marginally up as against the broader all share index (.JALSH), which was slightly down.
Reporting by Promit Mukherjee; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Jane Merriman
Tanzania’s 1st female president praises political tolerance
AP , Wednesday 8 Mar 2023
Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan has said that as the East African country’s first female leader, she has brought a new level of political tolerance to the nation.
Hassan spoke at a rally for International Women’s Day which had been organized by an opposition party. More than 3,000 women were at the event including leaders from 19 opposition parties.
“The opposition is lucky that it is a woman president in charge because if a misunderstanding occurs, I will stand for peace and make the men settle their egos,” she said amid cheers, singing and dancing.
She said there was a “new culture of unity” between the opposition and her government and although some critics are not happy with it, “they will get used to it.”
Hassan shared the platform with the chairman of the main opposition party Chadema, Freeman Mbowe. He said Hassan’s agreement to attend the opposition event elicited mixed reactions because the country experienced “fear, hate and mistrust” under Tanzania’s previous leader.
Mbowe was repeatedly arrested during former President John Magufuli’s administration and was only released after Hassan came to power. Hassan was vice president under Magufuli and succeeded him when he died in 2021. She has been accused of continuing her predecessor’s anti-democratic policies but she lifted a six-year-old ban on opposition rallies in January.
Another opposition leader, Godbless Lema, who was in exile for two years and returned to the country last week, also attended the Women’s Day event and Hassan welcomed him back home.
The opposition party Women Charter, which organized the event, told Hasan she needed to address health as a priority as it is the biggest challenge for Tanzania’s women, including relatively high rates of infant and maternal deaths.
Women make up more than half of Tanzania’s population of 63 million people, according to the 2022 census.
Namibia makes third offshore ‘light oil’ discovery
AFP , Monday 6 Mar 2023
Namibia announced on Monday the discovery of light oil off the country’s southern coast, the third such find in a year.
“We are delighted to announce this third oil discovery,” state-owned oil firm National Petroleum Corporation of Namibia (NAMCOR), said in a statement.
Further work is needed to determine the quality and size of the reservoir, located in deep water, some 270 kilometres offshore.
“This discovery has proven the exciting and world-class potential of the deep-water Orange Basin,” it said.
Shell and QatarEnergy each hold 45 percent interest in the joint venture with NAMCOR having 10 percent of the partnership.
This is the second find by the joint venture between Shell, QatarEnergy and NAMCOR, the first having been made in February last year.
A few weeks later France’s TotalEnergies announced the second discovery.
Namibia does not currently produce any fossil fuels, although its northern neighbour Angola is a major producer.
The promising result of the well “are a geological testimony of the significant hydrocarbon potential in the deep water,” NAMCOR said.
Office space: Nigeria eyes delivery of 80,000sqm by Q4 2023
Dayo Ayeyemi, Nigerian Tribune
March 7, 2023
Going by the number of office development in the pipeline, Nigeria expects the delivery of 80,000 square metres (sqm) space by the third and fourth quarters (Q3 and Q4) of this year, Nigerian Tribune has learnt.
According to the CEO, Octos Holding Limited, JideOdusolu, some of the pipeline office development included Dangote Headquarters, Re-African Insurance, Federal High Court, Deposit Insurance scheme, Stanbic-IBTC headquarters and First Pension Custodian, among others.
Speaking at a real estate forum in Lagos, Odusolu maintained that the pipeline office properties would be delivered this current year.
When this happens, he said they would help to force down the rental values in the real estate’s office segment.
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“When there is over supply, there is going to be lower rates,” he said.
According to the developer, vacancy rate would continue to rise in the office segment where most companies, especially in the oil and gas sector,are begging to downsize.
As a result, he said that Grade ‘A’landlords would begin to make adjustments and introduce allowances to retain tenants.
Copyright © 2022 Nigerian Tribune Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (Syndigate.info).
Egypt, UK mull cooperation in electricity, renewables field
Staff Writer, Arab Finance
March 7, 2023
Arab Finance: The UK is probing cooperation with Egypt in the fields of electricity and renewables as well as increasing its investments in the latter, the Ministry of Electricity and Renewable Energy stated on March 6th.
This came during a meeting between Egyptian Electricity Minister Mohamed Shaker, the UK Ambassador to Cairo Gareth Bayley, and a delegation from British energy companies.
Members of the delegation expressed intentions to cooperate with Egypt in several fields, especially renewables and green hydrogen fields.
Copyright © 2022 Arab Finance Brokerage Company All rights reserved. Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (Syndigate.info).
South Africa tops Africa in providing aid to quake-hit Turkey
By Rédaction Africanews with ANADOLU
South African non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have so far provided in-kind aid amounting to approximately 1.2 million dollars for those affected by the Kahramanmaraş-based earthquakes that occurred on 6 February.
Extending its hand of friendship to Turkey from at least 10 thousand kilometres away, the Republic of South Africa has become one of the countries sending the highest number of aid materials and search and rescue personnel from the African continent.
Consulate General of Turkey in Cape Town, Yunus Emre Institute (YEE) Turkish Cultural Centre in Johannesburg, Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) Pretoria Office and white goods company Arçelik/DEFY’s facilities in Durban, which were designated as aid collection centres, were overflowing with aid materials from South Africans.
-Over 100 tonnes of aid material from South Africa to Turkey-
Turkey’s Ambassador to Pretoria Ayşegül Kandaş told AA correspondent that South Africa has been among the first countries to provide aid to Turkey since the first day of the earthquake and said: “On the very next day after the earthquakes, a 33-person health and search and rescue team travelled to Turkey. This was followed by another medical team of 20 people on 9 February.”
Noting that South African NGOs such as Awqaf SA, Jamiatul Ulema and Al Imdaad collected approximately 1.2 million dollars of in-kind aid in the first three weeks within the scope of the aid campaigns they started immediately after the earthquakes, Kandaş said, “When individual aids were added, more than 100 tonnes of in-kind aid was delivered to Turkey with scheduled and weekly Turkish Airlines cargo flights.”
Kandaş said that these in-kind aids included 860 tents, 239 generators, 116 mobile toilets, 69 beds, 3,304 sleeping bags, 6,255 blankets, 641 heaters, 46 mobile cookers and 4 tonnes of clothes.
-110 thousand dollars in cash aid-
Referring to the cash aids provided by South Africans and Turkish citizens living here, Kandaş said, “Approximately 110 thousand dollars in cash aid was provided to the official bank account opened by the Embassy within the scope of the earthquake aid mobilisation.”
Noting that the South African government also provided 10 tonnes of medical supplies during this period, Kandaş said that the South African Police Service sent 5 K-9 dogs and a search and rescue team of 6 people to Turkey.
Kandaş pointed out that South Africans showed great interest in the book of condolence opened at the embassy and said: “With the solidarity shown by the people of South Africa in these difficult days, the foundations of the heart bridges between the two nations that will live forever have been laid. This helping hand from 10 thousand kilometres away will undoubtedly strengthen the relations between the two countries and make a significant contribution in terms of humanitarian relations and our bond of heart. We are grateful to the South African government and people. We are grateful to our citizens living in South Africa.”
Macron says era of French interference in Africa is ‘over’
AFP , Thursday 2 Mar 2023
President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday said the era of French interference in Africa was “well over” as he began a four-nation tour of the continent to renew frayed ties.
Anti-French sentiment runs high in some former African colonies as the continent becomes a renewed diplomatic battleground, with Russian and Chinese influence growing in the region.
Macron said France harboured no desire to return to past policies of interfering in Africa ahead of an environment summit in Gabon, the first leg of his trip.
“The age of Francafrique is well over,” Macron said in remarks to the French community in the capital Libreville, referring to France’s post-colonisation strategy of supporting authoritarian leaders to defend its interests.
“Sometimes I get the feeling that mindsets haven’t moved along as much as we have, when I read, hear and see people ascribing intentions to France that it doesn’t have,” he added.
“Francafrique” is a favourite target of pan-Africanists, who say that after the wave of decolonisation in 1960 France propped up dictators in its former colonies in exchange for access to resources and military bases.
Macron and his predecessors, notably Francois Hollande, have previously declared that the policy is dead and that France has no intention of meddling in sovereign affairs.
Macron on Monday said there would be a “noticeable reduction” in France’s troop presence in Africa “in the coming months” and a greater focus on training and equipping allied countries’ forces.
France has in the past year withdrawn troops from former colonies Mali, Burkina Faso and the Central African Republic.
The pullout from Mali and Burkina Faso, where its soldiers were supporting the Sahel nations to battle a long-running jihadist insurgency, came on the back of a wave of local hostility.
In his remarks on Thursday, Macron insisted the planned reorganisation was “neither a withdrawal nor disengagement”, defining it as adapting to the needs of partners.
These fields of cooperation included fighting maritime piracy, illegal gold mining and environmental crimes linked to regional drug trafficking, itself fuelled by a “terrorist movement” in the Lake Chad area, he said.
More than 3,000 French soldiers are deployed in Senegal, Ivory Coast, Gabon and Djibouti, according to official figures.
The proposed revamp concerns the first three bases but not Djibouti, which is oriented more towards the Indian Ocean.
Another 3,000 troops are in the Sahel region of West Africa, including in Niger and Chad.
Forest protection drive
Macron landed in Libreville on Wednesday and will later head to Angola, Congo-Brazzaville and the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.
His comments came before several heads of state were due to attend the One Forest Summit in Libreville, which will focus on preserving rainforests that play a vital role in the global climate system.
The forests of the vast Congo River basin represent the planet’s second-largest carbon sink after the Amazon.
They are also home to huge biodiversity including forest elephants and gorillas, and bear traces of the settlement of early humanity.
But they face threats such as poaching, deforestation for the oil, palm and rubber industries, and illegal logging and mineral exploitation.
Macron spoke of the challenges of mobilising international finance as he and Gabonese Environment Minister Lee White toured the Raponda Walker Arboretum, a protected coastal area north of Libreville.
“We always speak of billions in our summits, but people see little of it on the ground because the systems are imperfect,” he said.
Other presidents expected to attend the summit are host Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon; Denis Sassou Nguesso of Congo-Brazzaville; Faustin-Archange Touadera of the Central African Republic; Chad’s Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno; and Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea.
The gathering kicked off on Wednesday with exchanges between ministers, civil society representatives and experts.
Macron heads to the former Portuguese colony of Angola on Friday, where he is set to sign an accord to develop the agricultural sector as part of a drive to enhance French ties with anglophone and Portuguese-speaking Africa.
He then stops in the Republic of Congo, another former French colony, where Sassou Nguesso has ruled for a total of almost four decades, and neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.