Wednesday, November 15, 2017

AU Situation Room -- FLASH REPORT on Zimbabwe


AFRICAN UNION

UNION AFRICAINE
UNIÃO AFRICANA
Addis Ababa, ETHIOPIA       P. O. Box: 3243      Tel.: (251-11) 551 7700/ ext. 4090   Fax: (251-11) 551 93 21/ 5514227
Email:  situationroom@africa-union.org / URL: www.peaceau.org

AU SITUATION ROOM

FLASH REPORT

Date: 15 November 2017
FLASH REPORT ON THE SITUATION IN ZIMBABWE

Zimbabwe's military said on 15 November, it had seized power in a targeted assault on "criminals" around President Robert Mugabe who were causing social and economic suffering.
In an extraordinary statement after long hours of unrest, Zimbabwe's army early Wednesday, 15 November, sought to reassure the country that "this is not a military takeover" and that President Robert Mugabe was safe and sound. The military said instead it was targeting "criminals around" the president who have sent the nation spinning into economic despair.

Military vehicles blocked roads outside the Zimbabwean parliament Wednesday after army generals denied staging a coup but used state TV to vow to target "criminals" close to President Robert Mugabe. An AFP reporter witnessed cars being turned back by soldiers near parliament, while other military vehicles were stationed outside the offices of the ruling ZANU-PF party in the capital Harare.

Overnight, at least three explosions were heard in Zimbabwe's capital and military vehicles were seen in the streets after the army commander had threatened to "step in" to calm political tensions over the 93-year-old Mugabe's possible successor. The ruling party accused the commander of "treasonable conduct."

Reports indicate that soldiers have taken over Zimbabwe's ZBC state broadcaster, compounding speculation of a coup against President Robert Mugabe.  The Zimbabwe army's takeover of the state broadcaster and action against some members of President Robert Mugabe's government has been praised by the chair of the Liberation War Veterans' Association.  

Several cabinet ministers, including local government minister Saviour Kasukuwere and finance minister Ignatius Chombo, and Mugabe’s nephew Patrick Zhuwayo, were arrested. There was allegedly a brief gun fight outside Mr Chombo’s house.  Zimbabwe finance minister Ignatius Chombo was a leading member of the so-called "G40" faction of the ruling ZANU-PF party, led by Mugabe's wife Grace, that had been vying to succeed the 93-year-old president - Reuters

Speculation had been mounting throughout the day that a coup was under way against Mr Mugabe, after the head of the armed forces threatened to "step in" over the sacking of an influential vice president.

Chris Mutsvangwa, head of the war veterans' group issued a statement from Johannesburg praising Army General Constantino Chiwenga for carrying out "a bloodless correction of gross abuse of power". The statement said the army will return Zimbabwe to "genuine democracy".  
Zimbabwe's army has urged other security services to "co-operate for the good of our country," warning that "any provocation will be met with an appropriate response."

It says that if the country's degenerating political, social and economic situation is not addressed, it "may result in a violent conflict".  The army insists that this is not a military takeover and that President Robert Mugabe's security is guaranteed.

Gunfire erupted near Mr Mugabe's private residence in Harare in the early hours of Wednesday, a witness told AFP. "From the direction of his house, we heard about 30 or 40 shots fired over three or four minutes soon after 2.00 am," a resident who lives close to Mugabe's mansion in the suburb of Borrowdale said.

Armed soldiers were assaulting passers-by in the early morning hours in Harare, according to the Associated Press, while officers were seen loading ammunition near a group of four military vehicles. Aggressive soldiers told passing cars to keep moving through the darkness. "Don't try anything funny. Just go," one told a Reuters reporter on Harare Drive.

Zimbabwe's ruling party on Tuesday accused the army chief of "treasonable conduct" after he challenged President Robert Mugabe over the sacking of the vice president, in the latest sign of worsening instability in the country.

The ZANU-PF party criticised General Constantino Chiwenga who had demanded that Mugabe stop purges of senior party figures, including Vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa who was dismissed last week. The youth wing of Zimbabwe's ruling party accused the military chief on Tuesday of subverting the constitution for threatening to intervene after President Robert Mugabe plunged the country into political crisis by sacking his vice president.

Zimbabwe's main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says it will oppose any attempt by the army to stage a coup, amid reports of a military convoy moving through the capital, Harare, AFP news agency reports.

A coup would be "undesirable" as it would "bring democracy to a halt" in the southern African state, MDC Shadow Defence Minister Gift Chimanikire told AFP ahead of the convoy sightings.  "No one wants to see a coup," he added.

The U.S. Embassy closed to the public and encouraged citizens to shelter in place, citing "the ongoing political uncertainty through the night." The British embassy issued a similar warning, citing "reports of unusual military activity."  The UK embassy in Harare also urged British citizens to stay indoors during the 'uncertain situation'. The governments of South Africa and Zambia on Tuesday warned military leaders in Harare not to take any “unconstitutional” steps to avenge Mr Mnangagwa. 

South Africa’s governing African National Congress (ANC) says it will not intervene to end the crisis unfolding in neighbouring Zimbabwe, amid fears that the military could overthrow 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe, the world's oldest ruler.

It was not clear where Mugabe and his wife were early Wednesday. "Their security is guaranteed," the army statement said. The president reportedly attended a weekly Cabinet meeting Tuesday. (Source: AFP, BBC, Reuters, Al Jazeera, The Daily Telegraph, News 24)

Saturday, November 4, 2017

COURSE: Call for enrollments: Massive Open Online Course on freedom of expression for African judges

03 November 2017
Judges, judicial officers, prosecutors, parliamentarians and lawyers are invited to enroll in the first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on freedom of expression, access to information and the safety for journalists. The free, online course starts on 13 November 2017, and is offered by the Centre for Human Rights of the University of Pretoria and UNESCO.

The five-week course will elaborate on the international and regional legal frameworks of freedom of expression and relates issues. It will furthermore expand on challenges to freedom of expression in the digital age, especially in the African context. Case studies will also be relied upon to ensure in-depth and multi-faceted understanding of the course content. The course is also open for journalists, civil society, bloggers, human rights advocates, academics and others interested in the topic.

Registration to the course is free and can be access on this link(link is external).

Video lectures will be given by the Vice-President of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Justice Ben Kioko, and Commissioner Pansy Tlakula, former Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information and Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Other trainers of the online course are UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General of Communication and Information, Frank La Rue and the Director of the University of Pretoria’s Centre for Human Rights, Prof Frans Viljoen.

The online course was preceded by a three-day seminar in Pretoria, South Africa, where judges from 13 African countries participated as well as a judge from the Economic Community of West Africa Court. In a video message welcoming the judges, Frank la Rue said: “You, the African judges, are of great importance for the defense of human rights on the continent.”

By the end of the course, participants will be familiar with the existing international, regional and sub-regional legal frameworks and mechanisms for the promotion and protection of freedom of expression, access to information, safety of journalists and related issues in Africa. It will elaborate and use various examples of landmark decisions that have previously been given by regional and sub-regional courts in Africa. The ECOWAS Court of Justice as well as the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights delivered various judgements on the issue of defamation and investigating the murder of journalists.

As judicial officers are essential partners in the development, interpretation, implementation and enforcement of laws, the course will provide them with the opportunity to increase their knowledge on issues related to freedom of expression, press freedom and the safety of journalists. Hence, they will be able to further contribute to ensuring a safe environment for journalists, good governance and more transparency through improving access to public information. The participants completing the MOOC will receive a certificate from Centre for Human Rights of the University of Pretoria and UNESCO.

 This project is implemented in the framework of the UN Plan of Action on Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, which aims to create a free and safe environment for journalists and media workers.

The project received the support of Denmark and Open Society Foundations, with a technical contribution supported by Norway.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Article: Gambian Crisis: West Africa is No longer Country for Old Dictators

“The Accidental Ecowas & AU Citizen”:

Gambian Crisis: West Africa is No longer Country for Old Dictators
E.K.Bensah Jr

Whatever was going to happen in the leafy suburbs of Abuja on the eve of the 50th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Summit, historians and political scientists alike will undoubtedly look back at a country that has set an important precedent in West Africa's integration.

In between the whispers of an Ecowas Standby Force to be deployed in the event the Gambian leader was going to remain obdurate in his stance to remain in power, coupled with murmurs of the mystery surrounding Jammeh as a mad dictator who, like a mad dog, needs to be put down, one thing is clear: the posse of West african diplomats were never going to take The Gambian situation lying down.

In one foul sweep, Gambia was kicked off the dictator list -- only to stage an unwelcome comeback.

The Johnny-come-lately in Adama Barrow may have spoken too much about what he wanted to do to Jammeh on his assumption of power. There were a number of people who believe Barrow spoke too soon.

It is arguable a seasoned politician would have watched and waited. And waited some more--even after his swearing in. Now, Barrow's loose talk has sunk the proverbial ship and we are in the unfortunate state of *status quo ante*.

But the game is far from over.

That whiff of freedom  that passed through West Africa a few weeks ago when Jammeh called Barrow to congratulate him was clearly not fleeting: Africans from all over the continent felt it, even as they found immense difficulty scraping their mouth from the floor at the shockingly-exciting news for The Gambia.

For ECOWAS, this is textbook conflict resolution: remind Jammeh of Ecowas protocols on democracy; the sub-regions' commitment to democracy and zero tolerance for coups. For the African Union, and activists, they will be thinking through the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance. A consonance between regional protocols and continental ones are not always as explicit -- even as it is understood they should be.

For the UN Office for West Africa & the Sahel's boss, this may be unprecedented, but so far, so familiar. After all, in the many years Dr.Ibn Chambas headed ECOWAS, dealing with, and managing, Jammeh was de rigeur. But now, there's a new motivation: to ensure that the effort of the newly-expanded and erstwhile UNOWA, which now has a mandate to cover the beleaguered Sahel, under the banner of UNOWAS, is all worth the trouble.

At the Summit-proper, the West African leaders predictably stood their ground, stating the need to “uphold the result of 1st December 2016 election in the Republic of The Gambia”, and “guarantee the Safety and protection of the President-elect Mr. Adama Barrow.”

The Authority agreed that, “all Head of States will attend the inauguration of the President-elect Adama Barrow who must be sworn in on 19th January 2017 in conformity with the Gambian constitution.”

Calling on the “Government and the Coalition Parties to show restraint in order to
preserve national unity”, ECOWAS urged respect for “the will of the Gambian people as expressed by the Presidential election results of 1st December 2016”.

ECOWAS further “requests the endorsement of the AU and the UN on all decisions taken on the matter of The Gambia and also requests their support for the mediation efforts of ECOWAS including the provision of technical assistance where required”.

Finally, The Authority “shall take all necessary actions to enforce the results of 1st December 2016 elections”. Enforcement has now become synonymous with military, intervention by an Ecowas Standby Force.

Behind the headlines
In the meantime, the leafy suburbia of Abuja must, offlate, seem like a cruel place, especially for leaders consumed by hubris.

The Executive arm of ECOWAS appears to have become the ultimate nemesis, a kind of arch-defender of sub-regional democracy, boldly supporting and defending the region's democratic dispensations.

Together with ECOWAS, UNOWAS and the AU appears to have become a formidable troika that is more ready than ever to do more than firefight a sub-region. The imperative of peace reigns supreme in the resolution of The Gambia.
The institutional responses have been sound, and the leadership shown by Senegal to raise the issue in New York at the UN Security Council could be construed as an indication of a West Africa that wants to change the narrative of an unstable region into something more positive the historians and political scientists can go home smiling about.

The precedent of The Gambian Crisis
When we look closely at the micro-narrative of the Gambian crisis, there have been many firsts.

First, this is probably the first time that Jammeh has been shown the red card. Even during Chambas’ time as Ecowas head, which is considered a landmark time in the regional institution’s history, Jammeh’s regime was barely ever up for discussion. Now that Chambas is a high-level official, it seems a lot more less difficult to deal with him.

Second, this is also probably the first- ever ECOWAS conflict that has played out on social media. By the time the news was announced of West african leaders deciding to attend a summit in Abuja to discuss a number of regional issues, including Guinea-Bissau and Gambia, the agenda of the meeting was posted on ECOWAS’ facebook page. In March 2012, when the Mali crisis broke out, ECOWAS had yet to develop a Facebook page, which is now only a year old.

Third, this is arguably the first crisis for the new President of the ECOWAS Commission, Marcel de Souza. The Beninois former IMF official has defined his tenure so far with cost-cutting measures, and red-tape reduction than battling with typical Ecowas conflicts. This was demonstrated by his call to drawdown the ECOWAS mission in Guinea-Bissau(ECOMIB) so as to reduce the burden of supporting the beleaguered country.

Contrasted with his predecessor, Burkinabe Kadre Desire Oedraogo, the erstwhile Commission President was confronted with the Mali coup shortly after he entered office in January 2012. In May 2012, Guinea-Bissau erupted as a second crisis Ouedraogo had to show leadership on.

Fourth, Gambia is the first crisis that has seen a wholly anglophone troika (Nigeria-Ghana-Sierra Leone) be delegated to act. When Cote d’Ivoire’s civil war degenerated 6 years this month to the point ECOWAS was considering using military force against Gbagbo who was obdurate in stepping down for Outtara, the troika at the time was a Benin-Cape Verde-Sierra Leone one. In Mali(2012), the duo, initially, was a francophone one in Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire; they would later be replaced by then-Burkina Faso president Blaise Compaore.

Fifth, this is the first crisis to happen under the first-ever female Chairperson of ECOWAS in Liberian President Johnson-Sirleaf. The celerity with which it has been handled has been no different than if men had typically handled it.

Finally, the virtually-conspicuous absence of francophone ECOWAS members -- save Senegal that is coincidentally not just an immediate neighbour, but one that currently holds a non-permanent member at the UN Security Council -- means that the resolution of this crisis has been, and is most likely to be, remembered as one resolved largely by the anglophone bloc in ECOWAS.

More important is the reminder of how integral each of the two linguistic blocs will continue to remain to each other as they head towards fifty years of the organization’s history.

But even more important is the precedent set by this 50th Ordinary Session, which seems to signify a death-knell to continental dictators--prospective and otherwise--that a significant wake-up call is here: West Africa is no longer country for old dictators.

*Emmanuel, a Consultant for West African Health Organization, is Deputy Coordinator of ECOWAS Journalists Network-Ghana; and Managing-Director of Ecowas Business News. He hosts & executive-produces “Africa in Focus” Show on Radio XYZ93.1fm.
******

In 2009, in his capacity as a “Do More Talk Less Ambassador” of the 42nd Generation—an NGO that promotes and discusses Pan-Africanism--Emmanuel gave a series of lectures on the role of ECOWAS and the AU in facilitating a Pan-African identity. Emmanuel owns "Critiquing Regionalism" Established in 2004 as an initiative to respond to the dearth of knowledge on global regional integration initiatives worldwide, this non-profit blog features regional integration initiatives on MERCOSUR/EU/Africa/Asia and many others. You can reach him on ekbensah@gmail.com / Mobile: +233.268.687.653.
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