Category Archives: Angola

July 17 – 23, 2017: Tanzania crackdown continues as Malawi jails former minister

tanzaniaTanzania last week arrested a leading opposition figure, days after he called President John Magufuli a “dictator”.

Tundu Lissu, chief whip of the main opposition party Chadema, called on the international community at a press conference last Monday to cut off aid to the country.

“The dictator and his government” needed to be “isolated politically, diplomatically and economically,” Lissu reportedly said, according to TRT World.

He was arrested three days later at the Julius Nyerere International Airport in the capital Dar Es Salaam.

A police spokesperson told AP Lissu was being questioned over “making anti-government speeches that could lead to unrest”.

Lissu is the second Chadema MP arrested in July alone.

Earlier this month, Halima Mdee was taken in for questioning after calling on citizens to “denounce this tendency of President John Pombe Magufuli who thinks his declarations are law”.

Insulting the president has been a criminal offence in Tanzania since 2015.

The Tanganyika Lawyers Society, of which Lissu is president, released a statement condemning the arrest of people “when they air their personal views”, reported The Citizen.

Government spokesman Hassan Abbas’ response? “The government will not accept that someone, or a group of people, abuse the freedom of expression”.


malawiFive months after he was fired over his alleged role in a $35 million maize importing scandal, Malawi‘s former agriculture minister was last week arrested and charged with corruption.

George Chaponda has since been released on bail and will appear in court next month after an inquiry found “he had flouted procedures by hiring a private broker to import the maize”, reports the Nyasa Times. “He is also accused of sourcing the grain, in contravention of ministerial rules, for personal gain.”

According to Xinhua, the maize was procured from Zambia at a time when the El Nino-induced drought had left millions of Malawians food insecure.

When investigators raided Chaponda’s home in February, reports the agency, “they found and confiscated 58,000 US dollars and 124 million Malawian Kwachas of local currency (about 171,100 dollars) in stacks of cash stashed in suitcases”.


angolaLawmakers in Angola last week greatly curtailed the powers of the executive, passing a law that limits the president’s ability to remove security chiefs from their posts.

And the opposition isn’t happy.

The law, which does not apply to the current head of state, was passed just weeks before the long-ruling Jose Eduardo dos Santos steps down — and paves the way for him to extend his hold on the country long after he leaves the job, the opposition says.

“It’s unacceptable to have this law curtails the power of future president,” Unita MP Miranda Jamba told Bloomberg.

“It means that the president will not be able to remove them from their posts,” CASE-CE MP Andre Mendes de Carvalho told AFP.

Dos Santos is not running in the August 23 poll, having just returned from his second medical visit to Europe this year.

July 3 – 9, 2017: Zambia’s state of almost-emergency and Malawi stampede kills 8

Zambia‘s president Edgar Lungu dominated the headlines last week after declaring a partial state of emergency.

If approved by the national assembly, Lungu will be armed with broad powers allowing authorities to impose curfews, ban meetings, censor publications and search premises without a warrant.

The declaration Wednesday came after an early-morning fire gutted over 1,300 stalls in the capital’s City Market, reported the Lusaka Timesthe latest incident over the last year that Lungu has labelled as “sabotage”.

In a speech the following day, the president said his latest move would give the police “more clout” in their investigations and insisted it was not intended to target the opposition.

If so, his timing couldn’t be worse — or raise eyebrows any higher. His main rival, Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for National Development (UPND), has been jailed since April on a traffic-related treason charge, while 48 UPND lawmakers are currently suspended for boycotting a Lungu speech earlier this year.


malawiEight people were killed in a stampede in Malawi last week when police fired teargas into a crowd of thousands gathered outside the national stadium for the country’s independence day celebrations.

“Eight people — seven children aged around eight years old, and one adult died,” police spokesman James Kadadzera told news agency AFP.

Another 62 injured were being treated in hospital.

“Gates at the 40,000-capacity stadium were supposed to open at 06:30 local time to allow free entry of people — but there was a delay of about three hours,” reported the BBC. “However, thousands had already turned up, and some tried to force their way in, prompting the police to fire tear gas.:

According to the Nyasa Times, “hundreds of people rushed at one of the stadium gates, causing some to fall and be trampled underfoot.”

The stadium’s manager told the newspaper the accident would have happened if the gates had opened on time.

President Peter Mutharika cancelled a speech he was scheduled to give at the stadium, but the planned football match went ahead.


tanzaniaTanzanian authorities last week arrested an opposition politician for insulting the president — a criminal offence in a country that is increasingly attracting attention for all the wrong reasons.

Halima Mdee of the main opposition Chadema party was jailed after after making a speech about, ahem ahem, the government’s autocratic tendencies — which have included a strong anti-LGBTI stance and the expulsion of pregnant schoolgirls.

“We should denounce this tendency of President John Pombe Magufuli who thinks his declarations are law,” she reportedly said. “If we continue to do nothing, one day he will order Tanzanians to walk barefoot or topless, because he knows he has the support of police… We must absolutely put the breaks on this president.”

Going a long way in helping prove her point, a local district commissioner the next day order Mdee be “questioned and sent to court to explain the insults she made against our president”, reports Reuters.

Insulting the president has been a criminal offence in Tanzania since 2015.

According to Reuters: “More than 10 people, including university students and a lecturer, have been charged in court over the past few months with insulting the president via social networking platform like WhatsApp… It is punishable by up to three years in jail, a fine of around $3,000 or both.”


angolaAnd Angola‘s president is back in Spain just one month after returning from an extended medical stay there.

The 74-year-old Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who has said he will not be running in next month’s election, has ruled the country since 1979.

His last trip to Spain was plagued with rumours that he had suffered a stroke abroad and it was weeks before the government admitted he had been seeking medical treatment there.

His latest trip to Barcelona, they said, was a “private visit”.

According to AFP, the presidency said in a statement, “President dos Santos left Luanda on Monday for a private visit to the Kingdom of Spain for personal business.”

They did not say when he would return.

June 19 – 25, 2017: Mozambique millions missing, while UN pushes for DRC-Kasai investigation

mozambiqueAn audit report released at the weekend into Mozambique‘s ongoing undisclosed debt saga revealed some $500 million that still can’t be sufficiently accounted for.

The audit by US firm Kroll was commissioned after it was revealed last year that Mozambique had secretly borrowed billions — a scandal that saw the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and numerous donors cut off aid to the country.

“The audit found that three firms linked to Mozambique’s defence and intelligence services had borrowed $2 billion to buy maritime surveillance equipment and vessels, in 2013 and 2014,” reports AFP.

But, according to Xinhua, Kroll said there still “gaps” in understanding “how exactly the $2 billion dollars were spent”.

“Until the inconsistencies are resolved, and satisfactory documentation is provided, at least 500 million dollars of expenditure of a potentially sensitive nature remains unaudited and unexplained,” the report said.

Mozambique has now launched a investigation into the missing millions.


drcThe United Nations will be sending a team of experts to investigate the ongoing violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo‘s Kasai region, where some 3,300 have been killed since last August.

The resolution by the UN’s Human Rights Council came not without significant push-back from the DRC, which insisted any investigation that excluded Congolese authorities would be “unacceptable”.

Reports the New York Times, “European Union members had initially pushed for a tougher resolution calling for an international investigation on the scale of a commission of inquiry, but they dropped that proposal when it became clear that it lacked African support and Congolese ministers said they would not let its members into the country.”

“Do you want experts to go into a foreign country without reporting to the national authorities?” justice minister Alexis Thambwe Mwamba told reporters in Geneva earlier in the week, according to Reuters. “How will they get visas? How will they get access to the countryside? The best way would be to go towards a solution that is acceptable for everyone… If you think you can do the investigation without us, go ahead.”

According to the resolution passed, the DRC will now take the lead on the investigation with the UN providing “technical and logistical support”.

“The victims – those who have been killed, maimed, subjected to terrible violence and forced from their homes – deserve justice,” said the UN’s human rights head Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein in a statement.


angolaA Portuguese court ruled last week that Angola‘s vice president Manuel Vicente must face charges of corruption and money laundering.

Vicente is accused of bribing Portuguese officials during his tenure as head of the state oil agency Sonangal from 1999 to 2012.

“The attorney-general’s office says that Mr Vicente paid $810,000 (nearly R10.5 million) in bribes to shut down corruption investigations that he was facing,” reports the BBC. “The alleged bribes were made to Portugal’s former public prosecutor Orlando Figueira, who also faces charges as part of ‘Operation Fizz’.”

The charges against Vicente, first laid in February, were described  at the time by Angola’s foreign ministry as “a serious attack” on the country, “likely to disrupt the good relations existing between the two states”.

Reports Reuters: “State-run media called the investigation ‘revenge by the former colonial master’ and ‘neo-colonialism’.”

Angolan authorities have reportedly refused to play ball since then, but last week’s ruling saw the charges declared valid with an order that all suspects should stand trial.


tanzaniaTanzania‘s president John Magufuli last week said that schoolgirls who fall pregnant will not be allowed to continue their education after giving birth.

In a speech that has angered women’s rights NGOs, Magufuli said the girls should instead “join vocational training colleges or seek loans and become small entrepreneurs”, reported The Citizen.

“I give money for a student to study for free, and then she gets pregnant, gives birth and after that, returns to school. No, not under my mandate,” the president was quoted as saying by AFP.

He continued: “If we allow young mothers back into public schools we will one day have Standard One pupils rushing back home to breastfeed their babies. This way, we will destroy this nation.”

A Human Rights Watch report released last week found that over 15,000 girls drop out of Tanzanian schools every year due to pregnancy.


botswanaBotswana‘s former president Ketumile Masire died last week after a short stay in the intensive care unit of a Gaborone hospital.

Masire was elected into power in 1980, where he remained until he chose to step down in 1998.

Reuters called him “an instrumental figure in establishing the southern African country’s image as a stable African democracy”.

“He was Botswana’s longest serving president, and was credited with introducing Botswana’s two-term limit on ruling presidents and the automatic succession by the vice-president on the retirement of the sitting head of state,” reports HuffPost.

May 29 – June 4, 2017: Lesotho votes and Dos Santos returns

lesothoFor the third time in five years, Lesotho headed to the polls on Saturday to pick a new government after Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s ruling coalition collapsed.

His chief rival, former Prime Minister Tom Thabane, had no reservations about the outcome.

“We are going to win this election, if it is free and fair,” he told AFP.

Even so, Thabane’s likely to rely on the same web of delicate alliances that brought Mosisili to power in 2015 — despite his Democratic Congress winning fewer seats than Thabane’s All Basotho Congress.

“A coalition is the most likely outcome, but it is unlikely to be a successful one,” analyst Charles Fogelman told AFP. “Both of the previous coalitions have collapsed under the weight of succession and power battles, and it is hard to imagine future coalitions not doing the same.”

The election marks the latest event in the rollercoaster ride that is Lesotho politics, set off by a 2014 army-led quasi-coup that sent then-Prime Minister Thabane fleeing across the border into South Africa.

How the army will react to the results of Saturday’s poll is anybody’s guess.

“The prospect of a Thabane victory is extremely worrying to partisan pro-Mosisili army officers who have several skeletons in the cupboard which could come clattering out,” writes Peter Fabricius for the Institute for Security Studies.

On election day, a handful of soldiers loitered outside polling stations in the capital Maseru, fully armed.

“Why would there be soldiers in a peaceful exercise of democratic rights? There has not been a security concern,” an opposition spokesman told VOA. “Why are they fully armed? So the first impression is that they are there to intimidate.”


drcThe Democratic Republic of Congo‘s government last week okayed the use of an experimental Ebola vaccine as it fights its eighth outbreak of the disease.

The vaccine is called rVSV-ZEBOV and, reports Nature, it was developed using a strain of the virus that hit the country in 1995: “This is nearly identical to the strain circulating in the country now. The protein triggers a person’s immune system to produce antibodies that fight the virus.”

If deployed, the plan would be to vaccinate the high-risk healthcare workers dealing with suspected Ebola cases.

But the same isolation of the affected community that has in the past helped contain the country’s Ebola scares provides quite an obstacle to actually deploying the vaccine. The affected region doesn’t have tarred roads or electricity — quite the hurdle for a vaccine that needs to be stored at -80°C.

But it’s a stumbling block that may never need be overcome. At least for now.

Health minister Olly Ilunga Kalenga said last week the outbreak was now under control, with no new cases reported in 21 days. The last confirmed case was reported on May 11 — the same day the World Health Organisation was first notified of the outbreak. Says the latest WHO report:

“As of 1 June, 72 contacts remain under follow up for signs and symptoms of Ebola. Modelling suggests the risk of further cases is currently low but not negligible, and decreases with each day without new confirmed/probable cases.”

Recommended Reading: 
This fascinating piece from Science on the researchers searching for the origins of the Ebola virus — and where hides between outbreaks: “The virus’s natural history is a mystery, says virologist Vincent Munster, sitting outside his tent in the darkening jungle. ‘We know everything about its replication cycle but fricking nothing about where it comes from and how it causes outbreaks.'”


angolaAngola‘s president Jose Eduardo Dos Santos last week returned home after nearly a month abroad, an absence that sparked reports of his suffering stroke or dying, while his daughter Isabel took furiously to social media insisting he was very much alive.

The government has confirmed, however, that the 74-year-old president was in fact seeking medical treatment while in Spain.

“You know that there are moments in everyone’s lives when we don’t feel well. But he is fine. He is in Spain but when he is better he will return,” foreign minister Georges Chikoti told RFI. “President Dos Santos has regular checkups in Spain so it is perfectly normal for him to be there.”


zimbabweAnd Robert Mugabe kicked off his election campaign last week, wooing youth at a soccer stadium south of Harare one year before Zimbabwe heads to the polls.

“Two hundred buses and trucks have been laid on to bring supporters to the venue,” reported News24. “Youths, women and war veterans are understood to have been invited.”

To say he received a warm reception would be something of an understatement.

Addressing the crowd of thousands, the leader of ZANU-PF’s youth wing Kudzanayi Chipanga called Mugabe an “angel” who was “representing God here on Earth”.

“Mugabe, his wife Grace and Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa nodded in disbelief,” reported NewsDay.

Chipanga continued: “I promise you, people, that when we go to heaven don’t be surprised to see Robert Gabriel Mugabe standing beside God vetting people into heaven.”


May 15 – 21: Ebola in the DRC… again

drcRepresentatives from the World Health Organisation (WHO) last week traveled to a remote corner of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to assess an ebola outbreak that has so far killed three people.

Twenty-one suspected cases of the disease had been identified as of May 16 after a 45-year-old man caught a taxi to a hospital — but was dead on arrival.

“The driver also fell ill and later died,” the WHO reported. “A third person who cared for the first case also became ill and has subsequently died.”

The outbreak made world news earlier this month when first reported, no doubt fuelled by memories of the 2014 West Africa epidemic that left thousands dead.

But this is not the DRC’s first rumble with the disease. Try eighth.

According to the WHO, ebola outbreaks in the DRC were recorded in the seventies, nineties, late 2000s and 2014. The deadliest of these was the 1976 outbreak of what was then called ‘Zaire virus’, killing some 280 people. Affected areas in the most recent outbreak in 2014 — which was unrelated to the epidemic ravaging West Africa at the time — were quickly quarantined and deaths limited to 49.

AFP reports that doctors are hoping the remoteness of the most recent cases in a northern province of the DRC called Bas-Uele “could help limit [the disease’s] spread”.


zambiaZambian opposition politician Hakainde Hichilema was last week acquitted of insulting police officers when he was arrested at his home last month following an allegedly treasonous traffic altercation with President Edgar Lungu.

According to Zambia’s Daily Mail, Magistrate Greenwell Malumani slammed the prosecution and police for failing to provide any evidence of Hakainde’s insulting behaviour:

“Magistrate Malumani said the behaviour of the police in the matter was undesirable, adding that from the submissions made, it is clear that no investigations were conducted despite the country having a fully-fledged legal system. He said that the evidence showed that all the four state witnesses exhibited serious contradictions and lack of professionalism, stating that their aim was to destroy evidence in the matter.”

The treason charges, however, remain and Hichilema will be back in court this week when Magistrate David Samusamba will decide whether to dismiss the case — or refer it to the High Court.

The opposition leader was arrested last month after his motorcade allegedly failed to give way to President Lungu’s as they both headed to the same event.


Angola‘s first daughter Isabel dos Santos took to Instagram last week to shut down the #fakenews rumours surrounding the health of her father, President Jose Eduardo dos Santos.

“Someone has gone so low as to invent information about the death of a man in order to create confusion and turmoil in Angolan politics,” the state-owned oil company chair and living Ivanka warning sticker wrote.

“Opportunists and creators of false news,” she added — before hashtagging Rafael Marques, a celebrated investigative journalist.

This after Marques reported on his independent Maka Angola site last week that the president — who has been out of the country since the beginning of May — suffered a stroke.

Now, opposition parties are demanding answers.

“The health of the President is a matter of concern to everyone, but the problem is that everything about the health of the President is top secret,” UNITA MP Raul Danda told Reuters.

“There are many rumours about the health of the president and there is a need to officially provide clarification about what is happening,” added the party’s Alcides Sakala, reported Bloomberg. “While this is a society that is very fertile when it comes to rumours, there is no official information available about the president’s health.”


Recommended Reading:

  • The ruling MPLA party is expected to win the upcoming August vote in Angola, but President Dos Santos has indicated he will be stepping down. Get to know his successor and current defence minister Joao Lourenço in this Africa Report piece: “Lourenço is set to inherit a tangled web of patronage and a failing economy, and that leaves him little capacity to quench powerful thirsts.”
  • Lesotho‘s third election in five years is just weeks away after yet another coalition collapsed under the sheer weight of political party acronyms. “While party rallies still attract large crowds at weekends ahead of the vote, most Basotho voters do not believe that politics at the national level will solve their everyday problems. So where does Lesotho go from here? What can Basotho do?” asks this Daily Maverick read.
  • With an audit report released and the IMF seemingly appeased, Mozambique appears to have finally pulled itself from the muck and mire of its undisclosed debt scandal — politically speaking that is. This IRIN article looks at how ordinary Mozambicans were affected by the fallout: “The once-stable local currency, the meticais, crashed. Steep price rises quickly followed, while interest rates tripled in order to brace the currency as it threatened to go into freefall, further squeezing economic growth. In March 2017, the inflation rate was 21.57 percent.”

April 17 – 23, 2017: Tens of thousands flee DRC fighting

drcWe start off this week’s edition in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where ongoing fighting between the army and a group called the Kamuina Nsapu militia has seen 11,000 people flee across the border into Angola.

The conflict is centred around the Kasai region — made up of five provinces — which borders Angola’s north-east corner.

Some 9,000 of those refugees arrived just in April, said the United Nations’ refugee agency last week.

The UN also revealed it had uncovered 17 new mass graves, including the bodies of dozens of children. This brings the total number of graves discovered to 40, with an estimated 400 dead, reports Al Jazeera.

In addition to the 11,000 refugees, over a million people have been displaced within the DRC by the fighting. An estimated 62,000 of those were reported just last week, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

President Joseph Kabila, meanwhile, distracted by his fight to extend his long-since-expired presidency, is providing little leadership on the issue.

“The Kasai region… is one of the DRC’s poorest, and usually far off the radar of politicians and diplomats in the distant capital, Kinshasa,” writes Hans Hoebeke in this Crisis Group piece. “This insurgency has its origins in local tensions in Kasai-Central province. However, it has quickly tapped into the long-running political and socio-economic frustration in the Kasai provinces, and is also tied to national politics. The national and provincial governments’ legitimacy in the region is particularly weak.”

That piece is slightly dated, but I highly recommend it for insights into what (and who) Kamuina Nsapu is. It’s a long backstory full of pricked pride, urban vs rural tensions, and an assassination, but well worth the read if you want to understand this issue beyond just “DRC Gone Mad: The Sequel”.

As so quickly happens in all conflicts, there are no innocents left. Kamuina Nsapu is recruiting child soldiers, while the armed forces are mowing them down.


zimbabweZimbabwe last week celebrated the 37th anniversary of its independence from the United Kingdom.

Depending on which article you read, President Robert Mugabe was either paranoid (“I wish to urge you to remain vigilant… the enemy is ever ready to pounce”), celebratory (“now we enjoy the fruits of our independence and we can now call ourselves the masters of our own destiny”), or bizarrely conciliatory, making what EWN called “a rare call for unity and tolerance of political differences”.

“He called for Zimbabweans to respect each other,” EWN continued, adding Mugabe “told tens of thousands gathered in Harare… that people have a right to belong to a party of their choice”.

How that call for unity is expressing itself, though, may not be to the 93-year-old’s liking.

As the ruling ZANU-PF party is riven by infighting, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai spent last week forging alliances with smaller parties — including that of Joice Mujuru, the once-upon-a-time heir to Mugabe’s throne who was ousted from Zanu-PF in 2014 after a concerted and vicious campaign by the president’s wife, Grace.

But in such a deal, who would be king?

“Any opposition bloc would first have to overcome fierce rivalries within their various camps, and then hold together in an intense and often violent political landscape dominated by Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party,” surmised News24.

Anything less than unity would mean near-inevitable victory for Mugabe.”


swazilandSwaziland‘s King Mswati III caused a tizz last week when he spoke out against divorce.

For all we know, the monarch was simply playing to the crowd of gathered pastors at an Easter event when he said, according to the Times of Swaziland, “In our culture, once you marry someone, there is no turning back.”

But in a country where the king rules by decree, it was interpreted — and widely reported — as a “ban” on divorce.

“It is not necessarily a decree,” the Swaziland Solidarity Network’s Lucky Lukhele told eNCA. “However, given the vast powers that the king has it may sound as it is. Remember that he’s also a chairperson of the judiciary commission…”

The royal house has since denied those reports and said the king was just talking “about issues of national interest for families especially, and for the strengthening of Swazi culture”.

Whatever Mswati may have meant, marriage laws in Swaziland are a problem — particularly for women. Consider this explanation from the Southern Africa Litigation Centre on why they’re challenging the country’s Marriage Act:

“Under the common law marital power, a married woman cannot conclude contracts without her husband’s permission, she cannot represent herself in civil suits, and she cannot administer property. This restriction on the right to conclude contracts includes restrictions on the ability to access bank loans, mortgages, and financial credit generally. Common law marital power therefore relegates married women to the legal status of minors under the guardianship of their husbands.”

A new marriage bill has been drafted. But don’t hold your breath. Swaziland’s sexual offences bill has still not been enacted 8 years after it was developed, says Human Rights Watch. And another bill on women and girls’ protection — also not yet enacted — does not take into account marital rape.


zambiaFollowing up on last week’s lead, Zambian opposition politician Hakainde Hichilema remains behind bars on treason charges after his convoy failed to give way to that of President Edgar Lungu as both long-time rivals headed to an event a couple weeks back.

Hichilema appeared in court on Wednesday when his lawyers argued that the treason charge should be thrown out.

AFP quotes court documents saying that Hichilema “on unknown dates but between 10 October 2016 and 8 April 2017 and whilst acting together with other persons unknown did endeavour to overthrow by unlawful means the government of Edgar Lungu”.

The matter was postponed to later this week.

Until then, an increasingly autocratic Lungu — who narrowly beat Hichilema in last year’s presidential vote — has instructed his cabinet and members of tge ruling Patriotic Front party to shut it.

“President Lungu said that only Minister of Foreign Affairs Harry Kalaba will handle issues that are of interest to diplomats accredited to Zambia,” reports ZNBC. “He says it is important to restrict the number of people commenting on the issue because it is a judicial case which should be left entirely to the judiciary.”


angolaAnd in Angola, seven activists were arrested last week for protesting for transparent elections, reports AFP.

The country is set to head to the polls later this year, an auspicious event if only because long-ruling President Eduardo dos Santos has said he will not run for the post he’s held since 1979.

Of course, until that actually happens, it remains the dissent-crushing Angola we’ve come to know and love. Which includes sentencing people to 45 days behind bars “for the offences of rebellion and association with criminals”.

Fun.

 

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.