Apologies for the lack of your SADC Wrap last week – I put myself on sick leave. We’re back this week with news from across Southern Africa, and significantly less phlegm. But first, tomorrow marks 105 days since journalist Bheki Makhubu and human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko were arrested for daring to criticize Swaziland’s judiciary in the magazine, The Nation. The pair will be back in court tomorrow morning, so please show your support on Twitter this week with the hashtags #BhekiMakhubu, #ThulaniMaseko or #FreeTheNation and stand up for independent media in Africa.
The fall-out from a recent scuffle between soldiers on the DRC-Rwanda border continued last week, when a report about the incident was leaked. (It was our top story in the last SADC Wrap – you can read about it here).
At the time, reports seemed to indicate that the firefight broke out because two DRC platoons had tried to cross into Rwanda after one of their own was allegedly kidnapped by opposing forces. Five of their soldiers were then killed.
But the leaked report shows a more sinister picture: that the five soldiers were executed.
According to the BBC, the autopsies on the bodies of the five men returned to the DRC showed they had wounds to the head: “It also found that all of the men had been shot several times in other parts of the body, including the thorax and the abdomen, and at close range. One of the men had been shot eight times in the back… A military source in Goma told the BBC it was unlikely that these wounds had been inflicted during combat and it was probable that the men had been executed.”
Rwanda’s army has questioned the findings and authenticity of the report.
It’s been a busy first month in power for Malawi‘s president Peter Mutharika, what with getting getting married and swearing in a new cabinet.
He’s now also fired the two top army officials in the country, General Henry Odillo and his deputy Major-General John Msonthi, apparently with no explanation.
But an interesting factoid in all these reports is the role both men played when Mutharika’s brother, former president Bingu wa Mutharika, died of a heart attack in 2012. They chose to side with then-deputy president, Joyce Banda, rather than stage a coup for the benefit of now-president Mutharika.
Then again, it could all just be fallout from the Cashgate scandal.
An order for Banda’s own arrest was put out last week to prevent her traveling abroad. According to the Nyasa Times, in a report apparently culled of “the”, “The arrest orders have gone to Police and Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to make sure Banda is arrested and charged with several counts of corruption in relation to Cashgate scandal… Nyasa Times understands that ACB has not collected objective material evdience linking Banda to prosecutable offence other than mere unsubstantiated allegations.”
On the bright side, Mutharika’s party has said it will not bring back a law that criminalised farting in public places. Can’t make this sh*t up.
Researchers have discovered a new mammal species from northern Namibia: the Etendeka round-eared sengi, a kind of elephant shrew. It’s described as having “rust-colored fur, a large, hairless gland on the underside of its tail, and lacked dark skin pigment”, and is much smaller than any other sengis so far identified.
According to this report, “Found in a remote area of Namibia, on the inland edge of the Namib Desert at the base of the Etendeka Plateau, scientists believe this new species went undescribed for so long because of the challenges of doing scientific research in such an isolated area. Yet it is precisely this isolation, and the unique environmental conditions in the region, that have given rise to this and other endemic organisms.”
It seems that just about every time I write about Mozambique, the word “deadlock” is used. I’d like to say this week will be different, but it won’t.
There has been no progress in talks between government and opposition/rebel group Renamo, with the group’s leader Afonso Dhlakama saying he will not leave his hiding place in the bush until a consensus is reached.
The sticking point are foreign observers: the government says they’re not necessary to negotiating a ceasefire; Renamo disagrees.
There have now been suggestions to split Mozambique in two, leaving Renamo to control the north of the county, and ruling party Frelimo the south.
But this excellent editorial from the newspaper Verdade calls for both parties to grow the hell up and stop holding the county hostage: “Few Mozambicans wish to remember the country’s 16-year armed conflict but it began the same way: A shot here, another there, and yet another elsewhere,” it reads. “Guebuza and Dhlakama can actually relieve us of this sad situation, all they need to do is to consider their age and shake hands. We have had enough of all this shooting.”
Botswana‘s Okavango Delta was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO last week.
What’s especially great about this is that, yes, the government will have to work to protect this beautiful wetland – but also that Botswana must “give adequate heed” to the rights of the indigenous people of the area: the San.
“For us the San, the conservation of the Delta and our natural heritage is a foundation for our culture and our future,” said a local representative. “Our languages, culture, knowledge, our very existence is tied to the natural heritage of this region.”
The signs have been there for weeks and now it’s official: Swaziland has lost it’s African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) status with the United States, a pact that would have allowed the country to trade with the US duty-free.
In a presidential proclamation, Barack Obama said Swaziland had not been making enough progress in the requirements for the AGOA status – namely human rights violations, like arresting peaceful protesters.
“The withdrawal of AGOA benefits is not a decision that is taken lightly,” US trade representative Michael Froman was quoted as saying. “We have made our concerns very clear to Swaziland over the last several years and we engaged extensively on concrete steps that Swaziland could take to address the concerns.”
The termination is effective Janaury 1, 2015.
And on that note, #FreeTheNation.