May 1 – 7, 2017: ‘Beginning of peace’ in Mozambique

mozambiqueAfter three years of sporadic violence that left an unknown number dead and thousands fleeing, Mozambique‘s ever-warring political parties are finally calling it.

Ruling party Frelimo and the main opposition/sometime militant group Renamo have a long, messy history. As in 15 years and 1 million bodies of civil war. But peace only held for so long, with Renamo turning violent circa 2013 in their accusations of government corruption.

A disputed 2014 Frelimo election win, an opposition mountain hide-out and rounds upon rounds of circular peace talks later, Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama last week announced “an indefinite truce”.

“It is not the end of the war, but it is the beginning of the end,” Dhlakama said, according to AFP.

The truce comes just as the latest ceasefire was due to expire.

But Dhlakama said this would be a ceasefire “without a deadline”, reported Reuters.

Cynics would be forgiven for their skepticism.


tanzaniaA bus crash in Tanzania last week killed 35 people — 32 of them schoolchildren on a trip to write mock high school entrance tests, reports AFP.

The bus plunged into a gorge in wet weather, also killing the driver and two teachers.

Reports AP: “Children’s bodies were laid out along the paved road after being pulled from the wreckage, their faces covered. They appeared to be in school uniforms.”

Early investigations are pinning the accident on the driver’s speeding; Tanzania’s Daily News also reports that the bus had been stopped by police earlier in the journey for overloading and that “having been delayed, the bus was left behind by other school buses, prompting the driver to speed up to reach Karatu on time.”

“I cannot speak further,” the school’s principal Innocent Mushi told the Daily News. “My heart is heavy. This is the worst thing to have ever happened to my life.”


swazilandBreathe a sigh of relief, South Africa. We are no longer the most unequal society in the world.

An Oxfam report released last week passed that unenviable crown on to Swaziland — though as an absolute monarchy, they do dig crowns.

“Its government has failed to put measures in place to tackle inequality, with poor scores for social spending and progressive taxation, and a poor record on labour rights,” says Oxfam.

Don’t feel too smug, though. South Africa placed third in the list, just behind Nigeria. And the report as a whole is pretty damning of the continent’s failure to capitalise on their boom years to eradicate inequality.

Says Oxfam, “African governments, donor governments and multilateral institutions providing advice and finance had opportunities to ensure that the last decade of growth was more equal” — and they didn’t.

“In 2017, growth across many countries in sub-Saharan Africa is forecast by the IMF at its lowest level in more than 20 years, especially for those reliant on high commodity prices. Just as African countries had choices during the boom years, the choices they make in the years ahead will determine whether this economic outlook spells disaster for poverty reduction and inequality. This could be an opportunity born of the necessity to rethink the commodity-heavy shape of growth for some, for oil-importing countries to take advantage of low prices, and for all to invest in a more mixed job-creating economy that works for everyone.”


madagascarParts of Madagascar were in March hit by a tropical cyclone that left at least 50 dead, nearly 200 wounded, and 100,000 displaced by floods.

The real tragedy, though?

Ice cream prices in the United States are soaring.

According to a Boston Globe report, Cyclone Enawo wreaked vanilla crops, one of the Indian Ocean island’s main exports. And now ice cream shops are feeling the pinch,

“Aaron Cohen, the owner of Gracie’s Ice Cream in Somerville, used to buy vacuum-packed bags of beans for his vanilla ice cream at a rate of $72 a pound. He says that those same packs would now cost him $320, and that’s led him to scramble for alternatives.”

Parlours now say they have to pass that cost on to their customers, with one shop telling CBS last week that prices for an individual cone could increase from”25 to 50 cents”.

What’s the word I’m looking for here? Ah, yes. Shem.

You can read the United Nations’ situation report on the real impacts of Cyclone Enawo here. And then you can read Malagasy photographer Rijasolo’s account of photographing the labour-intensive vanilla industry here, and decide if it’s fair for ice cream shops to feel testy about prices when workers on the ground are earning $1.50 a day.


Recommended reading:

  • This intense New York Times read on Chinese interests in Africa, where quietly-getting-on-with-things Namibia is the staging ground for some of the ‘new colonist’s’ biggest projects: “Just north of Swakopmund, a Chinese telemetry station sprouts from the desert floor… in Walvis Bay, a state-owned Chinese company is building an artificial peninsula the size of 40 baseball fields as part of a vast port expansion. Other Chinese projects nearby include new highways, a shopping mall, a granite factory and a $400 million fuel depot…”
  • This Southern Times article on electioneering ahead of Lesotho‘s vote next month — if only for the mad swirl of acronyms fighting it out for ultimate alphabetical dominance. A preview? “The DC, LCD and PFD pact will see the DC contesting in 54 of the tiny kingdom’s 80 constituencies while the LCD will vie for 25 constituencies, while the PFD will be helped to wrestle its Qalo constituency stronghold from the opposition ABC.” Um. Huh?
  • And this quick Bloomberg read on the DRC‘s contracting of an Israeli firm to handle the PR mess that is their non-existent election.
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