Africa News Round Up
We start off this week’s news roundup in the Democratic Republic of Congo where the M23 rebels on Sunday declared a ceasefire in their fight with the army, in a move they hope will advance peace talks with the government, France24 reports. “We call on the facilitator of the Kampala peace talks to immediately put in place a mechanism to monitor the ceasefire,” the rebels said in statement. There was no immediate reaction from the army, which has pushed the rebels from all the towns they once controlled during a 20-month rebellion in North Kivu province. Rebel fighters this week abandoned Bunagana, their last stronghold in the eastern province, and have withdrawn into the hills and forests around Congo’s border with Uganda and Rwanda where the rebellion was launched last year. On Friday, Uganda, which has led regional attempts to end the most serious rebellion since Congo’s last war ended a decade ago, called for both sides to stop fighting. Heavy fighting has eased but the army said it shelled rebel positions on Saturday to encourage fighters to surrender.
Congo’s government has dispatched senior negotiators to talks in Uganda but the army is keen to finish off the rebellion, the last in a series of uprisings led by Congolese Tutsis in the mineral-rich but unstable east.
In Egypt, the trial of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy is set to start on Monday, four months after a military coup removed him from power, CNN reports.
The closely watched trial could be the first public appearance in months for Morsy, who’s been held in an undisclosed location since his ouster in July.
The former president is accused of inciting violence, and 14 other Muslim Brotherhood members are also defendants in the case.
Analysts say great uncertainty surrounds the trial, and some have expressed concerns that it could be a flashpoint that further fuels unrest.
Morsy, whom the Muslim Brotherhood backs, remains one of the most polarizing figures in Egypt.
He rode a wave of hope, becoming Egypt’s first freely elected president, but his presidency barely lasted a year.
His supporters believed he would usher in a new Islamic era. His detractors, though, saw a tyrant wanting to impose his conservative values.
Weekly protests demanding Morsy’s reinstatement still spring up around the country. As a result, hundreds have died in clashes with security forces.
Authorities have warned that they’ll crack down on any violent protests tied to the trial, and security forces are expected to be out en masse as Morsy’s supporters vow to take to the streets.
“Tomorrow’s trial is a test for the Egyptian authorities. They should present Mohamed Morsy in court and grant him a fair trial, including the right to challenge the evidence against him in court,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa. “Failing to do so would further call into question the motives behind his trial.”
Morsy isn’t the only former Egyptian president on trial.
Longtime strongman Hosni Mubarak also faced similar charges.
While Mubarak is facing a retrial, some worry Morsy won’t get a fair shake.
“What we are worried about is a fair trial because of the political circumstances surrounding it especially with the animosity between the media and Morsy during his year in office,” said lawyer Nasser Amin, head of the Arab Center of the Independence of the Judiciary and Legal Profession.
Britain has scrapped a plan to force people from certain African and Asian countries to pay a cash bond in return for a visitor’s visa after it caused an outcry at home and abroad and exposed a rift in the governing coalition, Reuters reports.
In a move that political rivals said showed Prime Minister David Cameron’s flagship immigration policy was in disarray, a government spokesman said a pilot scheme which had been due to start this month had been canceled.
“We have decided not to proceed,” the spokesman said on Sunday, declining to explain why.
Under the plan, visitors from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nigeria and Ghana seeking a six-month British visa would have been obliged to pay a refundable 3,000-pound ($4,800) cash bond to deter them from overstaying.
The government chose those countries because they were “high risk” sources of illegal immigration, it said.
Polls show that immigration is one of the most important issues for voters in Britain, where Cameron’s Conservative party faces the threat of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) siphoning off support ahead of a parliamentary election in 2015.
Concerns have been fuelled recently by warnings in the right-leaning media about “hordes” of Romanians and Bulgarians moving to Britain next year, when European Union freedom of movement restrictions lapse at a time when Britons face rising competition for jobs.
In Kenya, a push to have the cases against President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto deferred seems headed for failure after an informal gathering of the UN Security Council indicated it would turn down the request, the Daily Nation reports.
Rwanda, Togo and Morocco circulated a draft resolution for a deferral among UN Security Council members on Friday, but there are indications the request will be rejected.
Minutes from a lobbying meeting held among ministers of foreign affairs from countries sitting on the Security Council show that Kenya managed to secure the support of only five of the 15 members. Only one of these has veto power.
At the meeting in Washington, eight ministers turned down the proposal while two others were non-committal.
Kenya’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Mr Macharia Kamau, Saturday said there are no specific dates when a decision by the Security Council can be expected. “However, it is anticipated that the decision will come within the fortnight,” he said.
Frustration kicked in towards the end of the meeting with Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Secretary Amina Mohamed saying that if Article 16 was not applied, it might as well be deleted from the Statute.
Article 16 states: “No investigation or prosecution may be commenced or proceeded with under this Statute for a period of 12 months after the Security Council, in a resolution adopted under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, has requested the Court to that effect; that request may be renewed by the Council under the same conditions.”
Ms Mohamed claimed that by refusing to grant a deferral, the council would be empowering those Kenya is fighting against (terrorists).
Rwanda’s representatives said they would table a resolution before the council even if a refusal was evident.
Ethiopia’s minister was also unimpressed, wondering why most countries held a similar position prior to the meeting. The minister accused Security Council members of having plotted in advance to reject Kenya’s request.
Kenya is citing the recent Westgate terrorist attack and the continuing peace efforts in Somalia by the Kenya Defence Forces to ask for a deferral.
To achieve such a deferral, though, it is necessary to convince at least nine of the 15 members of the powerful council to vote in their favour without a veto.
Countries that hold veto power are China, France, Russia, the UK and the US. Other countries that sit on the council but have no veto power are Argentina, Australia, Azerbaijan, Guatemala, Luxembourg, Morocco, Pakistan, Korea, Rwanda and Togo.
The only country holding veto power that backed Kenya’s request was China. Togo, Rwanda, Morocco and Azerbaijan also supported the deferral.