Reelected Ramaphosa Sworn In as South African President

In the May 29 elections, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) failed to win a majority, and the party was forced to form a coalition with the Democratic Alliance (DA) and other parties. Last week, lawmakers reelected Cyril Ramaphosa as the head of state. Reelected South African President Cyril Ramaphosa was sworn in on Wednesday, vowing to observe and maintain the basic and all other laws of the republic. “In the presence of everyone assembled here and in full realization of the high calling I assume as President of the Republic of South Africa, I, Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa, swear that I will be faithful to the Republic of South Africa and will obey, observe, uphold, and maintain the Constitution and all other laws of the Republic,” Ramaphosa said during the inauguration ceremony. Several heads of state, such as Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Angola’s Joao Lourenco, the Republic of the Congo’s Denis Sassou Nguesso, and Eswatini’s King Mswati III, attended the inauguration. During the ceremony, the president welcomed “the beginning of a new era” as the country sees transformation in its government. “The formation of a government of national unity is a moment of profound significance. It is the beginning of a new era,” Ramaphosa noted. “The voters of South Africa did not give any single party the full mandate to govern our country alone. They have directed us to work together to address their plight and realize their aspirations.” Ramaphosa is expected to announce his cabinet soon as discussions with coalition members continue. The ANC faced a tough challenge in May’s legislative election from the DA, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) of Julius Malema, and the MK party of ex-President Jacob Zuma, who was barred from running by the top court. The MK party boycotted the ceremony, labeling it a “farce.” However, Ramaphosa emphasized that voters are “impatient with political bickering” and urged parties to prioritize the “needs and aspirations” of the people and “work together for the country’s sake.” “We must reject every attempt to divide or distract us, to sow doubt or cynicism, or to turn us against one another,” he said in an apparent, veiled dig at his opponents. As leaders, as political parties, we are called upon to work in partnership towards a growing economy, better jobs, safer communities, and a government that works for its people,” he urged. According to the official results, the ANC, which won 159 seats, is followed by the DA with 87 parliamentary seats, the MK party with 58 seats, and the EFF party with 39 seats. The remaining parliamentary seats were received by 14 other parties.

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How UNESCO is Complicit in Human Rights Abuses in Africa’s National Parks

For years, human rights groups have accused UNESCO of ignoring or being complicit in serious abuses like illegal evictions and allegations of torture, rape, and murder at World Heritage Sites. Critics argue that weak enforcement of human rights obligations, requests for controlling population growth, and internal politics are to blame. A recent report from indigenous rights organization Survival International revealed that UNESCO has supported the illegal eviction and abuse of Indigenous peoples in several World Heritage Sites, including African parks like Ngorongoro in Tanzania and Odzala-Kokoua in Congo. A human rights organization claims that UNESCO grants these parks World Heritage status despite reports of torture, rape, and murder by rangers, citing a lack of enforcement mechanisms for human rights and demands for population control and internal policies as reasons. “UNESCO is not taking out a stick and beating and evicting Indigenous peoples itself,” Fiore Longo, a senior research and advocacy officer at Survival International, told non-profit environmental news platform Mongabay, adding that “the report shows that UNESCO encourages authorities to follow a model of fortress conservation in order to ‘protect’ World Heritage Sites from ‘human encroachment.’” Since September 2023, UNESCO has required countries to get consent from Indigenous peoples in protected areas, following the World Heritage Convention and UN guidelines. However, despite not getting consent from the Baka peoples in Odzala-Kokoua National Park in the Republic of the Congo, the Congolese government still received World Heritage status for the park, the report said. A UNESCO spokesperson told the news platform it “strongly contests” the statements made by NGOs about the World Heritage Convention. “Multilateral frameworks such as the World Heritage Convention are not the cause of the problems,” they said. “On the contrary, they are the best allies to defend, shed light on, monitor, and effectively advance the rights of Indigenous peoples.” John Knox, former UN special rapporteur on human rights and the environment, told Mongabay that being listed as a World Heritage Site holds significant value for many countries. “It is prestigious. People are more likely to visit a park if it’s listed as a World Heritage Site. It matters what the World Heritage Committee says about these sites,” he said. Rosalie Matondo, the Republic of Congo’s Minister of Sustainable Development, Forest Economy, and Environment, echoed this sentiment. She explained to the news platform that international recognition of a site like Odzala-Kokoua National Park reassures both the local community and those who wish to support the Congo Basin and preserve the heritage site. However, according to Mongabay, there’s debate about how much this actually helps sustainable development projects for local communities. Since 2012, only 5% of the park’s earnings are said to go into a community fund for local projects. But Tresor Nzila, executive director of the nongovernmental organization Centre d’Actions pour le Développement (Action Center for Development), noted in an interview with the publication that “the communities claim that they do not see this money and do not know what it is used for.” UNESCO is responsible for protecting World Heritage Sites. However, Stefan Disko, an adviser for the human rights organization the International Working Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA), explained that each country must enforce the values in UNESCO’s Constitution. The policy and guidelines do not have strong penalties for countries that ignore Indigenous peoples’ rights, cultures, and values at these sites. “It’s always the [World Heritage] Committee who makes the final decision on whether a site gets approved or not,” he said. “Theoretically, [the committee] should take the advice of the experts because they have visited the place, they’ve seen the situation on the ground, and they can say if the site doesn’t meet the standard.” Nzila told Mongabay that there were no consultations whatsoever. “We denounced that on that occasion and asked that status not be granted,” he said. He also noted that violence against the Baka people by park rangers, including torture and sexual abuse, had been well-documented for years. Congolese Minister Matondo denied all these allegations. She said that the Survival International organization paid community members to make those statements, which the organization, for its part, denies. “Of course we consulted people,” Matondo said. “Consultation was one of the conditions to become a heritage site. It was part of a pact with all the conditions we had to fulfill for the park to be recognized as a global heritage site. […] If these conditions weren’t met, it would not have been possible.” She explained that the government conducted an investigation with independent consultants, which concluded that the allegations were false. However, Matondo did not provide any details of the investigation to Mongabay. Meanwhile, African Parks is still carrying out its own investigation into the claims, according to the report. On the other side, UNESCO informed Mongabay that protecting World Heritage Sites should go hand-in-hand with improving the living conditions and livelihoods of the local community. This involves engaging with them and should never disrupt their daily lives. Moreover, a UNESCO World Heritage Centre spokesperson noted that they “have never asked for the displacement of local communities.” The spokesperson reportedly added that in September 2023, UNESCO adopted a decision expressing “deep concern over the alleged human rights violations in and around the property” and reiterated “its unequivocal condemnation of any forced evictions.” When a human rights abuse is reported to UNESCO, the agency is supposed to refer the issue to the concerned member state. These states must regularly provide information to UNESCO. Using these updates, UNESCO creates State of Conservation reports, helping the World Heritage Committee review the situation and decide on actions to fix ongoing issues. According to Mongabay, one measure may include adding a site to the World Heritage in Danger List. However, human rights groups reportedly say that UNESCO often ignores abuses and fails to follow its rules by not removing sites where Indigenous people’s rights, lands, and livelihoods are ignored. Stefan Disko of the IWGIA believes removing these sites is “not really reasonable” because “it “goes against the logic of the whole convention,” which is to

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President of Republic of Congo to Travel to Russia, Meet With Putin on June 25: Ambassador in Moscow

MOSCOW (Sputnik) – In early June, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov arrived in the Republic of the Congo for the second time in two years, when he held meetings with the leadership of the country in the Congolese city of Oyo. President of the Republic of the Congo Denis Sassou Nguesso will travel to Russia next Tuesday and hold a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ambassador in Moscow David Madouka told Sputnik on Tuesday. “Will visit on June 25,” Madouka said, adding that the president is scheduled to hold a meeting with the Russian leader. Putin met with Nguesso during last year’s Russia-Africa Summit. The Russian head of state underscored fruitful cooperation between the countries at the United Nations and other international platforms, adding that trade between Russia and the Republic of the Congo increased by 85% in January-April of last year.

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Namibia and SADC Parliament Forum Rally for Urgent Desertification Solutions

This year’s World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought was commemorated by the SADC event held in Eenhana, Namibia. The 2024 edition is significant for marking the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, the only legally binding international treaty on land management and drought. Namibia and the Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum (SADC PF) underscored the importance of collective efforts to combat land degradation as the nation observed World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought on June 17, local media reported. Under this year’s theme, “United for Land: Our Legacy. Our Future,” Namibian Minister for Environment, Forestry and Tourism Pohamba Shifeta addressed the forum on occasion emphasizing the power of sustainable land management in addressing global challenges and securing future land resources. “The theme highlights the transformative power of sustainable land management in tackling global challenges and ensuring the future of our land resources,” the minister was quoted as saying by the media. According to Shifeta, a healthy land is crucial for livelihoods, food security, and defense against calamities like floods and droughts. The minister pointed out that drought and desertification worsen forced migration and pose a serious threat to human health. He underlined Namibia’s dedication to tackling these problems by way of the Sustainable Land Management Steering Committee and involvement in global projects such as the African Forest Landscape Restoration and the SADC Great Green Wall. Shifeta also confirmed Namibia’s commitment to the Paris Agreement, emphasizing the planting of trees and ecosystem restoration as means of lowering carbon emissions. Namibia will also be participating in the Land Degradation Neutrality Target Setting Program. “This year, the ministry aims to distribute 30,000 tree seedlings across the country to promote community involvement in greening initiatives,” he said. Recent reports underscore a worrisome increase in the severity of drought, affecting more than 55.6 million people in the southern African region during the 2021/2022 El Nino-induced drought, stated Boemo Sekgoma, Secretary General of the SADC PF, in her message to the forum. “By implementing rigorous oversight, parliaments can hold governments and other stakeholders accountable for policies and programmes aimed at combating land degradation,” she said. The actions to help the land include encouraging sustainable farming methods, funding afforestation and reforestation initiatives, and improving water conservation measures. Education and awareness campaigns were also emphasized as critical elements in the battle against land degradation by the Secretary General in her speech. Sekgoma pointed out that by educating the public on the value of sustainable land management as well as the effects of drought and desertification, people will be more empowered to take action and support the preservation of natural resources. “The actions we take today will determine the legacy we leave for future generations,” Sekgoma concluded, imploring partner parliaments and member parliaments to step up their efforts to address these urgent problems. Namibia, a semi-arid nation with the lowest average rainfall in Southern Africa, also has one of the largest and oldest deserts in the world, the Namib. This unusual terrain presents serious difficulties for agriculture and subsistence due to its large, parched stretches and scarce water supplies. World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, observed annually on June 17, is a United Nations initiative aimed at raising awareness about the significant impacts of desertification and drought. It promotes sustainable land management, combats desertification and drought, and highlights the need for restoring lands and effective policies.

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Mali Views Strategic Partnership With Russia in Nuclear Energy Important, Foreign Minister Says

BAMAKO (Sputnik) – Mali considers strategic partnership with Russia to be important both in the field of solar and nuclear energy, Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop told Sputnik. Construction of a solar power plant recently started in Sanankorobe, a small town near Bamako. The project is being carried out by a subsidiary of Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom. Diop noted that the construction of a solar power plant will be extremely important for the country, strengthening its energy production capacity. “A partner like Russia is extremely important. Rosatom was not chosen by chance, it was chosen because of the experience, knowledge and capabilities in this particular area, and having a strategic partner on such an important issue is extremely important for us to be able to fulfill obligations and achieve the desired result,” Diop said. Mali also plans to build a nuclear power plant, which could ensure self-sustaining energy production and meet the needs of the Malian economy and the Malian population in the medium term, the minister added.

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