October 13 – 19, 2014

madagascarIt was news nobody saw coming. Last Monday morning, and totally unexpectedly, former president Marc Ravalomanana announced he’d returned to Madagascar after five years living in exile in South Africa.

He was quickly arrested and is reportedly being held at an unknown location.

“They were heavily armed with automatic rifles and were wearing balaclavas to disguise their identities,” Ravalomanana’s son reportedly said in a statement. “They did not say what they were charging him with or where they were taking him.”

Ravalomanana’s wife has now called on her country to “rise up” against his detention, reports AFP.

But to understand all this, we need to back up to early 2009, when anti-government protests were shaking the capital, Antananarivo. The strikes were initiated by Andry Rajoelina, a young media tycoon – and mayor of Antananarivo – who had a problem with Ravalomanana’s politics and plans, calling him a dictator. When the president shut down one of his TV stations, Rajoelina called people to the streets. The situation fell rapidly to pieces. Stores were looted. Government TV stations were burned. People died. A week into the unrest, Rajoelina declared himself ruler of Madagascar. A week after that, the protesters marched on the presidential palace. Police opened fire – with live ammunition. Dozens were killed. A month later, another presidential palace was stormed – this time by the military – and the coup was complete.

Since then, Ravalomanana’s been in South Africa and, in his absence, has been found guilty and sentenced to life in prison for ordering the shooting of the protesters.

Now Madagascar’s only just stabilised after all this. It held democratic elections last year and is slowly winning back the favour of the investors and international community who turned their backs on the country. And now – Ravalomanana.

The AU’s condemned his return, calling it an “unnecessary provocation”, reports AFP.

And this piece from IOL’s foreign editor Peter Fabricius raises some fascinating questions about just how Ravalomanana even left South Africa:

“His passport is being held by South African authorities… So it seems he did not pass through any immigration. He was also supposed to be under surveillance by South African intelligence. But he somehow gave them the slip, in circumstances which have aroused some suspicion of complicity by the authorities, which they deny. A private intelligence source said he travelled to Pietermaritzburg to visit his son at school there; drove to Durban’s King Shaka airport; flew to Lanseria airport, and from there to Skukuza airport in Kruger National Park. After that a private charter ferried him to a disused military airstrip south of Madagascar’s capital Antananarivo.”

It’s a great piece and is well worth the long read.


lesotho

It finally happened. Four months after prime minister Thomas Thabane suspended parliament to avoid a vote of no confidence that would have seen him ousted – and after twice reneging on regional agreements to reconvene it – Lesotho‘s parliament was reopened on Friday.

One opposition parliamentarian told AFP: “Democracy begins again… There was no longer democracy in this country but now we can get back to representing our people.”

The agreement to (finally and actually) open parliament’s doors was announced by South African deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa last month after weeks of acting as intermediary between the rival factions in Lesotho’s hung government .

IOL correspondent Basildon Peta gives a helluva interesting behind-the-scenes look at how Friday’s outcome was achieved:

“On his first visit he faced a barrage of criticism from all parties he was meant to reconcile… They suggested Ramaphosa was ignorant of the workings of a Westminister-type parliamentary democracy in which no confidence motions are routine.”

Parliament will remain open for only a short while before dissolving for early elections in February next year, which are hoped will lift Lesotho out of its political deadlock.


drcOver twenty people were killed last week when a rebel group reportedly conducted raids on the north-east DRC town of Beni.

VOA quotes an army spokesman as saying that the fighters snuck into homes at night and “people were killed with knives and machetes.”

AFP reports that most of the victims were women and children, “hacked and clubbed to death”.

The Allied Democratic Forces and the National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (ADF-NALU) has been blamed for the attack, a rebel group pushed out of Uganda by that county’s army and a persistent threat to Congolese towns in the region for years. In December last year, the same group was blamed for another attack in the region that left 40 dead.

The UN representative in the country Martin Kobler called for “decisive joint military actions” from UN and Congolese forces to bring the group to justice.


mozambique

For all the months of conflict and negotiation and peace treaties that preceded them, Mozambique pulled off relatively peaceful elections last Wednesday with the tally so far pointing to ruling party Frelimo staying in power.

SADC and AU observers seem satisfied that the process was generally “free, fair, and credible”.

But the opposition is having none of it, and started disputing the results before they were even counted.

On election day, the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) alleged it had caught Frelimo members stuffing ballot boxes.

By Friday, with 25 percent of the vote in and Frelimo way ahead, sometime-rebel-group-but-currently-political-party Renamo had already declared: “We don’t accept the results. The results should be annulled and new elections held.

Then on Saturday came local media reports claiming Renamo supporters had physically destroyed 44 polling stations on elections day – affecting thousands of voters.

With votes still being counted and Frelimo still in the lead, Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama reiterated on Sunday that he was the real winner of the elections, while MDM’s Daviz Simango said, “No conscious citizen in the world can state that the Mozambican elections were free and fair.

Meanwhile, UN head Ban Ki-moon, always full of the lolz and the practical advice, has asked everybody to “continue working together”. Okay, Mr Ban, but only ‘cos you asked nicely.

Here’s a quick read on the three men vying to be president. (Spoiler alert: It’ll be Nyusi.)


namibia

Namibia confirmed last week that it has started dehorning rhinos in the fight against poaching. This comes after the country lost a record-breaking number this year (brace yourself, South Africans): 14.

Over a third of the world’s black rhino population is based in Namibia, reports Bloomberg, and about 500 white rhinos. And 14 poached animals may seem paltry compared to the hundreds South Africa clocks up in poached carcasses each year. But for a country that lost only ten rhinos over a period of ten years, 14 so far this year is quite a rise.

“It is a worrying situation that could rapidly escalate if counter-measures are not effectively put in place,” head of the WWF in Namibia Chris Weaver told Vice News.

Namibia’s deputy environment and tourism minister Pohamba Shifeta told the Namibian Sun “because rhino horn grows back, the ministry will assess the situation in a few years and decide whether or not to dehorn the rhinos again”.


swaziland

Just months after the country lost a crucial trade deal with the United States for failing to protect labour rights, King Mswati III has shut down all Swaziland‘s labour organisations. And it’s not just the unions affected. According to IOL, the move also hits the Federation of Swaziland Business Community and the Federation of Swaziland Employers and Chamber of Commerce – which in turn means government organs like the Wages Council, or Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration Commission can’t function.

The government’s pinning the decision on a piece of legislation called the Industrial Relations Act, passed in 2000 but which they’ve now decided 14 years on doesn’t make provisions for unions or federations to exist.

Clarifying the issue for the media, labour and social security minister Winnie Magagula offered the explanation that while trade unions and business federations have not been banned, they are technically illegal – and will remain illegal until an upcomig amendment to the Act is passed.

A union protest planned for Friday was banned by the cops, and then later called off by the unions themselves.

“To be specific, we want to prepare for the war that has been declared against us and our members,” one union boss told the Times of Swaziland. “However, this does not mean that the march will be violent. We will stick to the plan of having a peaceful march but we will be prepared for anything, including war.”


angola

In the same week that Angola was elected to serve for two years on the Security Council, the International Energy Agency (IEA) predicted the country could become Africa’s biggest oil producer from 2016. It’s a shift that will be down not so much to Angola’s increasing production as to the growing instability in the continent’s current top oil producer, Nigeria.

“The IEA estimated that Nigeria currently loses 150 000 barrels a day to oil theft, the equivalent of $5 billion a year,” reports the Wall Street Journal. “On top of that, regulatory uncertainty… has led to delays in investment decisions.”

The IEA report said 30 percent of oil and gas discoveries around the world in the last five years had been made in Africa – but warned that not much of this wealth was making its way to the people of the continent. (For an Angola-specific picture of this, read this AfricaReport article.)

“Africa has long been plagued by the resource curse, where abundant oil, gas and minerals in places like Equatorial Guinea or the Republic of Congo have made a select few rich, led to widespread corruption and left the majority of citizens poor,” reported Fortune. “The energy resources have also sparked conflict in countries such as Sudan and Nigeria, and have contributed to years of coups and political unrest. That trend is set to continue… unless countries tackle the range of problems that hinder the energy sector, from widespread oil theft… to electricity tariffs across the region, which are among the highest in the world.”


zimbabwe

And the Amazing Grace Mugabe Show dominated Zimbabwe‘s news last week, with the First Lady delivering a Subtweet Speech of note against her husband’s deputy and one of the top contenders vying to inherit his presidential throne, deputy president Joice Mujuru.

Quotable Quotes courtesy this New Zimbabwe report:

  • “Those positions which you hold were given to you and you can be removed. It is possible.”
  • “You say when Mugabe is gone you will take over his estate, come and take it today. What is stopping you from doing so since you use this road when you go to your home and the gates are open?”
  • “You lead factions, you extort companies and you are involved in illicit diamond deals, so you cannot say you are not corrupt.”

And my favourite, if only for the irony of it all: “A very senior leader wasting time spreading malicious gossip about the First Lady instead of working to address the country’s problems. You should be ashamed of yourself!

I would say this means Dr Mugabe’s sided with the succession race’s other top contender, justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa. But given that she’s announced her own intention to vie for the post, all bets are off.


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