Maasai in Tanzania Move to New Homes Amid Eviction Effort

Tanzanian authorities say violent clashes on June 10 between police and ethnic Maasai people they were trying to evict from a conservation area left one officer dead and scores of Maasai shot and wounded. While rights groups have condemned Tanzanian authorities for what they call unlawful evictions, some Maasai families say they had no choice but to move from their ancestral home to a reservation 600 kilometers away.

Saiboku Laizer, 63, has found a new home in eastern Tanzania’s Handeni township.

It’s about 600 kilometers south of his ancestral land in the Ngorongoro Conservation area.

Laizer has three wives and 20 children. In this new environment, he is worried about the fate of their long-preserved traditions, including living in a traditional Maasai bomas (huts).

Laizer said that in Ngorongoro, the laws were strict, and people were instructed about what to do with their land, so they had much time to invest in their traditions. But for now, he added, the traditions of living in bomas and living with many cattle may suffer.

He is among the Maasai who have left their land after a government eviction that has sparked protests and a violent police crackdown.

Government officials say the Maasai are being asked to voluntarily leave their homes, located in parts of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

They also say the goal of the eviction is to protect a conservation area from a growing Maasai population and their cattle.

But activists say they are being forced out to make way for trophy hunting and conservation zones. Onesmo Ole Ngurumwa, the executive director of Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition, said they have been advising citizens to sit together with the government and write down their recommendations, and they have done that.

The challenge comes on the government’s side, he said.  The government, he said, didn’t seem want or to pay attention to any recommendations. Instead, he said, it simply continued with the strategies it has already planned.

About 27 Maasai families already have shifted from Ngorongoro to Msomera village, where the government provides those evicted with a house and land where they can let their cattle graze.

Msomera Village chairperson Martin Oleikayo said the president’s plan to move Maasai from the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is for the benefit of all the country, adding that the revenue collected from tourism activities from the conservation area benefits all citizens.

Meanwhile, Laizer is adjusting to a new life and a new home. But he is worried about those more than 300 families that remain in the area, who are reluctant to leave the only home they have ever known.

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UN: Well-Armed M23 Rebels Resurgent in DRC

The top U.N. official for the Democratic Republic of the Congo said Wednesday that the resurgent M23 rebel group in the country’s east is well-armed and equipped, posing a growing threat to civilians.

“During the most recent hostilities, the M23 has conducted itself increasingly as a conventional army, rather than an armed group,” said Bintou Keita, head of the U.N. Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, known as MONUSCO.

“The M23 possesses firepower and equipment, which is increasingly sophisticated, specifically in terms of long-range fire capacities — mortars, machine guns, as well as precision fire against aircraft,” she said in remarks to the Security Council.

The M23 was defeated by Congo’s army (FARDC) and special MONUSCO forces in 2013. But in November 2021, its forces began to reemerge.

Congolese officials blame neighboring Rwanda, saying it supports the group, which claims to be protecting the Tutsi minority in eastern DRC. Rwanda’s government is Tutsi-led but denies any link to the rebel group.

At the Security Council, Congolese Ambassador Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja called for the M23’s unconditional withdrawal from the DRC. He also urged strong condemnation of those who support the group “beginning with the state of Rwanda and its president.”

“This is an unfounded accusation,” Rwanda’s envoy Claver Gatete responded.

MONUSCO has more than 16,000 troops and police in Congo’s east. But Keita warned they may soon be outgunned by the rebels.

“Should the M23 continue its well-coordinated attacks against FARDC and MONUSCO with increasing conventional capabilities, the mission may find itself confronted by a threat that goes beyond its current capabilities,” she said.

The United Nations has called on the group to cease all hostilities and disarm.

In the past three months, the U.N. has recorded nearly 1,000 civilian deaths and scores of injuries in the provinces of North and South Kivu and Ituri because of attacks by armed groups and their clashes with security forces.

The militants seek to control lucrative trade in sought-after minerals, including gold, tungsten, copper and cobalt, which are abundant in the east.

As Congolese security forces and U.N. peacekeepers have redeployed to respond to the M23 threat, Keita said, other armed groups have exploited the security vacuum, including the Allied Democratic Forces and the Coopérative pour le développement du Congo-Zaire (CODECO).

Civilians suffering

The U.N. has chronicled abuses including looting, rape and murder. Displacements have soared in the east, with 700,000 people forced from their homes since the beginning of 2022.

“Just imagine — mothers are cooking dust, soil, to feed their children instead of boiling corn or soya,” said Julienne Lusenge of the Ituri-based women’s NGO Female Solidarity for Integrated Peace and Development.

Speaking to council members via video, Lusenge read the horrifying testimony of one woman who was kidnapped by CODECO militants when she went to pay a ransom for a captive relative.

“It was a trap. They brought me there, they tied me up, they beat me, they undressed me. They slit the throat of a Nande man, they pulled out his entrails and asked me to cook them,” Lusenge said, reading the woman’s statement. “They then fed all of the prisoners human flesh.”

The woman’s ordeal did not end there.

“Late at night, we went to another camp. I was raped all night long, and I was subjected to other physical abuse,” she said.

Released by CODECO a few days later, the woman was then taken by another group in a different village as she made her way home. She was held as a sex slave for several days and again was asked to cook and eat human flesh. When she finally arrived home, she discovered the relative whose release she had been trying to secure had already been murdered.

Regional stabilization force 

The resurgence of the M23 has led to a deterioration in relations between the DRC and Rwanda.

On May 27, the Congolese government declared M23 a terrorist movement, accused Rwanda of supporting the rebels and suspended RwandAir flights to the DRC.

At an African Union summit the next day, Senegalese President Macky Sall, chairman of the AU, met with the two presidents and offered Angolan President João Lourenço, chair of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, to mediate between them.

Last week, East African leaders agreed to deploy a regional security force to help restore order in the eastern Congo and ease tensions. Kenya is slated to lead the force, the size of which has not been announced.

The U.N.’s Keita told reporters she has been told the force’s headquarters will be deployed by the end of July, and troops will follow in August.

“I would urge East Africa Community leaders to prioritize dialogue-based approaches to the crisis,” U.S. envoy Richard Mills told the council. “The United States insists that the deployment of any additional force in eastern DRC must be closely coordinated with MONUSCO, and it must be conducted in conformity with the parties’ respective commitments under international law, including international humanitarian law.”

He said it must also be done in line with existing Security Council sanctions resolutions, and the council should be formally notified before it is deployed.

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Striking South African Electricity Workers Return to Work Amid Severe Outages

South Africa’s state-owned power company, Eskom, said some workers were returning to their posts Wednesday, amid a strike over pay issues that caused severe nationwide power cuts. The rolling blackouts have dealt a blow to South Africa’s already ailing economy.

Some of the striking workers who are members of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) — have heeded the call to return.  

But the exact number of those who have resumed duties is still unclear, as the workers walked off the job without approval. Eskom’s spokesperson, Sikonathi Mantshantsha, said while some are back at work, there is still a high level of absenteeism.   

He explained that despite the workers returning, the country remained on what is known as a Stage 6 alert regarding the outages. 

“The system will still take some time to recover. As a result of the strike, maintenance work has had to be postponed and this backlog will take time to clear,” Mantshantsha said.

Stage 6, also known as loadshedding, means many areas are without electricity for at least six hours a day on a rolling basis. Eskom resorted to that stage only once before, for three days in December 2019. 

The alert level is expected to go down in the coming hours. 

Regular power cuts started in South Africa back in 2007 due to increased demand and aging coal power stations. 

Energy analyst Chris Yelland said the strike, which started last week, simply aggravated an already bad situation. 

“Eskom says that there were a number of units that had come off even before the industrial action but because of the industrial action, key people were not able to get access to the power stations,” Yelland said. “As a result, picketing at the power stations, intimidation, acts of violence and so people that needed to bring these units back on stream were not available.” 

Workers from the two unions went on strike to demand pay increases of 10 and 12 percent. Union leaders will meet with Eskom on Friday to discuss the company’s latest offer, reported to be a 7 percent raise.  

Meanwhile, Yelland is calling on the government to get rid of the regulations that give Eskom a near-monopoly over South Africa’s electricity market.  

“And every effort should be made to remove all the restrictions that are preventing the private sector from building their own generation capacity. And that means domestic, commercial, industrial, mining, agricultural,” Yelland said. “They’ve all got to come to the table and be allowed to build their own generation facilities.” 

If the government doesn’t act, he said, the blackouts will steadily worsen.  

Economists, meanwhile, have warned of a ratings downgrade if the situation doesn’t change quickly. 


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African Continental FTA Challenged by Bureaucracy, Poor Infrastructure

The African Continental Free Trade Area has been operating for more than a year with the aim of cutting red tape to expand inter-African trade and lift millions of people out of poverty. But the largest trade pact in the world, in terms of member countries, has seen slow progress and mixed results. Anne Nzouankeu reports from Abidjan, Ivory Coast, in this report narrated by Moki Edwin Kindzeka.
Videographer: Anne Nzouankeu

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African Union Urges Restraint after Ethiopia-Sudan Border Clashes

The African Union called for restraint Wednesday after clashes between Ethiopia and Sudan in a disputed border area.  The tensions broke out after Sudan accused Ethiopia of executing seven of its troops, which Ethiopia blamed on a local militia.

The statement appealed for “complete refrain from any military action, whatever its origins,” and called for dialogue between Sudan and Ethiopia to resolve any dispute.

Sudan on Tuesday captured Jabal Kala al-Laban, an area on the border, after using heavy artillery a Sudanese military source told Reuters.

Shawgi Abdulazim, a Sudanese political analyst, said a broader conflict is unlikely because both countries are politically and economically fragile and a conflict could have disastrous effects.

He said if war happens, it will affect the humanitarian situation in both countries, resulting in an influx of refugees and displaced people.  It would also further impact the situation in Djibouti, Somalia, and South Sudan amid an expected hunger crisis in the region.

Sudanese journalist Abdelmoniem Abuedries doubts the conflict will escalate.

“I don’t think this will lead to broader conflict, it will continue to be small clashes here and there,” he said. “Always these small clashes are happening at the beginning of the rainy season in this area, because the farmers start cultivating their farms.”

The clashes have taken place around the al-Fashaqa region, where land disputes between Sudanese and Ethiopian farmers have simmered for decades.

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UN Investigator Calls For Access to Burundi to Probe Human Rights Violations

In his first oral report since beginning his job as the United Nations special rapporteur on Burundi’s human rights, Fortune Gaetan Zongo appealed to Burundian authorities to grant him access to their country to properly discharge his mandate to investigate alleged violations in that country.

Zongo noted with satisfaction that since the start of his mandate on April 1, Burundi’s return to the international scene had begun with the lifting of sanctions by the European Union, the United States and others. In return, he said Burundi has begun interacting with international and regional actors.

Additionally, he said Burundi has made some progress on human rights. He noted that Burundian President Evariste Ndayishimiye has pardoned more than 5,000 people in detention and freed some journalists and civil society representatives, as well. He spoke through an interpreter.

“But despite this major progress achieved since 2020, additional efforts are still necessary in the area of fighting impunity, in beefing up institutions, notably in the justice sector, the police and the army,” Zongo  said. “In protecting the enjoyment of public freedoms and expanding the democratic space through effective participation of civil society and the media.”

Zongo said he intends to fulfill his mandate in an impartial manner and will examine documents from all sources regarding the human rights situation in Burundi.

However, he noted he only has access to partial information, achieved through secondary sources. That, he said, could tarnish the credibility and neutrality of his effort.

“From the height of this tribune, I would like to request of the Burundi authorities the possibility of interacting with them — visiting this brotherly country in order to better understand the realities on the ground, the country’s opportunities, as well as the challenges and priorities of that country.”

Burundi’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Renovat Tabu, said Burundi has achieved major progress in implementing reforms and promoting good governance, social justice, and freedom of expression.

He said his country was aware of the crucial role played by the council in reinforcing, promoting and protecting human rights across the world. But he added that Burundi would not accept any mechanism or political attempts to interfere with the domestic affairs of sovereign states.

The comments effectively shut the door on Zongo visiting Burundi – at least for the time being.

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Lone Referral Hospital in Ethiopia’s Afar Region Struggles as Malnutrition Soars

Record-breaking drought in Ethiopia has caused child malnutrition rates to soar in the northern Afar region, where the only referral hospital says babies are dying within hours of arrival. Ethiopia’s war with Tigrayan forces has left less than 10 percent of the region’s clinics functioning and hospitals struggling to cope.

Doctors at the hospital in Afar say they have admitted 369 severely malnourished children in the past three months.  

With only two pediatricians serving an area of more than 1 million people, Dubti General Hospital is overwhelmed with weak children and desperate mothers.    

Aina Kadr’s 1-year-old son has been on therapeutic feeding for two weeks.    

“When we came here, he wasn’t eating food or drinking water,” she said. “We were afraid he would die.”  

The worst drought in the Horn of Africa in four decades has left millions of Ethiopians facing hunger and malnutrition. The U.N. says Afar’s rate of admitted malnourished children jumped by 30 percent in March and then another 28 percent in April.  

The acting head of Dubti General Hospital, Dr. Muhammad Yusuf, said they’ve gone from admitting five children per month to five per day.    

“They come after the patient deteriorates. So, most of the patients die in our setup after arrival within two to three hours because they are already complicated. Since malnutrition is not the only problem. It’s accompanied with other complications, like pneumonia, anemia, diarrhea,” Yusuf said. 

Ethiopian authorities say the war with Tigrayan forces left Afar’s clinics looted and destroyed, with less than 10 percent functioning.  

That has forced even more people to seek care at hospitals like Dubti’s, where patients —many of them children — spill into the hallways and porches.

Amina Adam Ibrahim has been at the hospital with her sick baby for over two weeks. 

“He’s coughing. He has a high fever, and he cannot eat food,” she said. “We do not know what’s wrong with him.”  

Michel Saad, head of the U.N.’s humanitarian office in Ethiopia, said there’s a struggle to meet health care needs.   

“There’s a need to either rehabilitate other health centers somewhere else within Afar or to create new ones even if momentarily,” Saad said. “So, this is something that we are trying to work on. I can tell you, unfortunately, it’s not as fast as we would like to, but it’s definitely on the radar, and we are following up on this.”  

Meanwhile, Yusuf said some staff have given up and abandoned the hospital, making it even harder for remaining health workers to cope.    


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Lone Referral Hospital in Ethiopia’s Afar Struggles as Malnutrition Soars

Record drought in Ethiopia is seeing child malnutrition rates soar in northern Afar region, where the only referral hospital says babies are dying within hours of arrival.  Ethiopia’s war with Tigrayan forces has left less than 10 precent of the region’s clinics functioning and hospitals struggling to cope. Halima Athumani reports from Semera, Ethiopia.
Video editor:  Yidnkeachew Lemma

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