April 24 – 30, 2017: Malawi fights child marriage

 malawiMalawi’s president Peter Mutharika last week signed a key amendment to the country’s constitution that officially makes child marriage illegal.

This has been a long-fought battle in a country which has among the highest rates of child marriage in the world

Malawi had previously adjusted its marriage laws to set the age of marriage at 18 and above. But the Constitution still allowed children between the ages of 15 and 18 to marry with parental consent, leaving all kinds of legal loopholes in its wake, as the Human Rights Watch video below (slightly dated but such an informative watch) makes clear.

This latest amendment removes all ambiguity from the question: constitutionally, the legal age for marriage in Malawi is now 18 or older.

But laws alone won’t solve the problem.

“Child rights advocates say enforcing the law will be difficult unless the government also addresses the poverty that drives families to marry off their young daughters,” reports VOA. “Some families cannot afford school fees for girls, or simply have too many mouths to feed.”

Recommended reading:
This great Al Jazeera profile on Theresa Kachindamoto, a Malawian chief who had hundreds of child marriages in her district annulled: “When she learned that child marriages were still taking place in some areas, she fired four male chiefs responsible for these areas. They returned months later to tell her that all marriages had been undone. After sending people to verify this, she hired the chiefs back.”

zimbabweMonths after Zimbabwe introduced custom bond notes as a way out of the country’s continuing cash crisis, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is not convinced.

Speaking at a briefing in Washington at the weekend, the organisation’s Africa director Abebe Aemro Selassie said, “We think that going down this one (bond) note route, in and of itself, will not address the challenges that the country has.”

Zimbabweans themselves are likely to agree. The temporary relief the bond notes provided when first introduced has vanished and Zimbabweans still spend their days queuing to access limited funds. Like the dollars before them, the bond notes are also becoming scarce, reports News24.

Now, the country’s Reserve Bank governor John Mangudya has decided no more bond notes will be issued.

“The fundamental problem of this economy is not about currency but localised production, stimulating exports and discouraging imports of finished products at all cost,” the central bank chief told the Sunday Mail.

The IMF tends to agree.

“It’s very important to have a more comprehensive policy package which also addresses a lot of the fiscal challenges that the country faces, a lot of the structural reforms that have to be done,” said Selassie.

tanzaniaTanzania this week fired nearly 10,000 civil servants who faked their qualifications — including, amazingly and ironically, “the head of the government’s anti-corruption body, the tax chief, a senior rail official and head of the port authority”, reports The Guardian.

According to AFP, president John Magufuli said the “9,932 employees recruited on the basis of false diplomas will not receive their salary for this month of April and have to leave their positions immediately”.

Seemingly on a roll, Magufuli then also fired and deported the head of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the country, Awa Dabo.

The government attributed her dismissal to her “poor relations with her work colleagues”.

But many others are tying it to her criticism of the disputed 2015 vote in Tanzania’s island sibling, Zanzibar. The results were annulled after the opposition declared victory. And when the vote was held a second time around in March 2016, furious opposition parties boycotted — and the ruling party won.

Criticism from Dabo could have impacted funding for Tanzania. Reports the BBC: “Zanzibar’s controversial election re-run in March 2016 prompted a US government aid agency to withdraw nearly half a billion dollars of funding from Tanzania… Speaking on condition of anonymity, a UNDP official said that Ms Dabo had been deported on the same day the government issued the order, under a security escort.”

zambiaAnd finally, opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema is still behind bars in Zambia after his treasonous traffic run-in with president Edgar Lungu.

HH appeared in court this week hoping to have the widely derided charges against him thrown out. No such luck. Al Jazeera reports that “magistrate Greenwell Malumani said he did not have the power to dismiss the charges, which can only be handled by the High Court”.

Hichilema and his co-accused are back in court this Thursday, for a preliminary inquiry to allow the court “to sample the evidence in the matter in order to ascertain the validity of the charge”, reports ZNBC.

Meanwhile, and seemingly without a hint of irony, Lungu told young Zambians at the weekend not to “retaliate” when provoked by opposition, reports the Lusaka Times.

“You are all aware of the provocation we are facing as a party, please don’t retaliate… You should not fall prey to any political provocation because you have a critical role in promoting unity, love and peace.”

Recommended reading:

  • This AFP piece on the impact China’s demand for wooden furniture is having on Mozambique‘s forests: “The work of policing the sprawling country’s vast forests is ‘complicated’… ‘We don’t have sufficient means, we don’t have enough personnel… It’s like we have our limbs cut off.'”
  • This great NewsDeeply read out of Angola, where lawmakers are pushing to ban abortion entirely — “with no exceptions for rape, fetus malformation, or when the mother’s life is in danger”.
  • And this Guardian profile on Rodrigue Katembo, a child soldier-cum-ranger who risks his life daily protecting the DRC‘s national parks: “When we see how many [groups] are trying to destroy our protected areas, we cannot stop now. If I left, that would feel like a betrayal to the protections the wildlife and national parks deserve.”

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