Ethiopia/Tigray crises: Thousands dead, millions displaced as UN sets up enquiry
Allegations of human rights violations against the Ethiopian government in its war against Tigrayan rebel forces has hit new heights with appointment of Former International Criminal Court (ICC) Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to head the UN commission of enquiry into alleged violations.
Report out of Geneva says the President of the Human Rights Council, Federico Villegas of Argentina, announced the appointment of the Gambian, as well as two other experts – Kaari Betty Murungi, a lawyer at the High Court of Kenya, and American Steven Ratner, a law professor – who will join the newly created commission.
Forces under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed — the Ethiopian military, ethnic militias and troops from neighboring Eritrea — are fighting to oust the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, or T.P.L.F., from its stronghold in the northern region of Tigray.
The conflict in Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous country, has left thousands dead, forced more than two million people from their homes and pushed parts of the country into famine.
The Tigray Region is the northernmost regional state in Ethiopia. The Region is the homeland of the Tigrayan, Irob and Kunama people. Formerly known as Region 1, its capital and largest city is Mekelle. Tigray is the fifth-largest by area, the fifth-most populous, and the fifth-most densely populated of the 11 regional states in Ethiopia. 96 per cent of Tigrayans are Orthodox Christian.
Since its outbreak in November 2020, the war, which began in Tigray (northern Ethiopia) and then spread to the neighbouring regions of Amhara and Afar, has been marked by numerous allegations of abuses on both sides.
In November 2021, a joint report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission documented possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in the conflict.
Following the investigation, by December 2021, the United Nations at held a special session on “the grave human rights situation in Ethiopia”, hearing the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights warn that increasing hatred, violence and discrimination could escalate into generalised violence, and urge all parties to reassess the damage being done to the nation, and to pull back from a posture of war.
The Commission will be required to provide an oral update on its work during the fiftieth session of the Human Rights Council in June 2022 and a written report at the following session in September.
South Africa: Opposition, DA want findings on alleged arms supply to Russia public
South African opposition party, the Democratic Alliance has vowed to challenge the decision by the presidency to keep from the public, findings from recent arm supply allegations.
The follows allegations by United States Ambassador, Reuben Brigety that South Africa provided ammunition to Russia by ship. Brigety said the US was sure that contrary to its public claim of being non-aligned in the Russia/Ukraine crisis, South Africa supplied arms to Vladimir Putin’s army in December.
Following the allegation, President Ramaphosa launched an investigation to be conducted by an independent body which will be led by retired Deputy Justice Phineas Mojapelo, advocate Leah Gcabashe, and former justice minister Enver Surty. Meanwhile, his spokesperson, Vincent Magwenya said the government would withhold the panel’s findings.
Magwenya said the terms of reference for the inquiry would not be gazetted or published.
“The investigation covers issues of national security and classified information, which is protected from disclosure,” he said.
“This inquiry has been instituted in a similar manner to the inquiry that investigated the July 2021 riots in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng and the value of its report remains unchallenged.
“The panel will be supported in gathering the information that is necessary to fulfil its mandate by letters from the president instructing all relevant government entities as identified by the panel to cooperate fully with the panel or face disciplinary sanction,” he said.
“The work of the panel will not be public, nor will its report be made public. The president will speak to any actions that may result with respect to national security. This is provided for within our secrecy laws as per the nature of this matter,” he added.
In a statement, the DA said it would not ” leave this secrecy unchallenged. We have already submitted an application under the Promotion of Access to Information Act to obtain a copy of the panel’s terms of reference. And we are obtaining legal advice to challenge Ramaphosa’s plan to hide the report once it is complete.”
The party leader, John Steenhuisen argued that keeping the report private “undermines the ability of prosecutors and the public to hold guilty parties accountable for any such violations of the law”.
“Hiding this report from public view will rob the people of South Africa – and of the world – of the opportunity to see the full facts of this matter.
“Refusing to disclose the complete picture of how the ANC-led government allegedly smuggled weapons to arm Russia’s war in Ukraine and various parts of Africa will also undermine the very purpose of the investigation.”
Zimbabwe’s electoral commission, ZEC promises to publicise voters’ register
The electoral commission in Zimbabwe said it would soon publish the voters’ register for the forthcoming general elections.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) also assured the public of a fair election and promised to rectify anomalies that were observed during the voters’ inspection exercise.
The head of ZEC, Utloile Silaigwana made the position known when he announced the end of the mop-up voter registration exercise on Friday.
Silaigwana further revealed that the Nomination court would sit on 21 June and thereafter the voters’ roll would be accessible to candidates.
There are contentions about the neutrality of the electoral commission. In March, a member of the opposition party, the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), Allan Markham filed a court application challenging ZEC for access to the electronic voters’ roll but had his request rejected because “it was too risky” and in the interest of data protection.
Meanwhile, the ruling party, Zanu PF sent text messages to registered voters during the period urging them to vote for President Emmerson Mnangagwa. This move further fuelled the allegation that Zanu PF had access to the voters’ roll which is why it was able to send the messages.
President Mnangagwa is running for re-election to a second term after coming to power following a military coup that dislodged Robert Mugabe as Zimbabwe’s president in 2017.
The country is struggling with deep poverty, recurring power outages, and crippling unemployment, all of which have fuelled widespread resentment.
The President of Zimbabwe is elected using a two-round system. The Zimbabwean legislature is made up of 270 members of the National Assembly, 210 members elected in single-member constituencies, and 60 women elected by proportional representation in ten six-seat constituencies based on the country’s provinces.
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