18 June 2017

Africa: Around Africa in a Difficult Week in June

Photo: Daily Monitor
Rebels (file photo).
column

A few years back I wrote an article praising Africa, the giant continent of opportunities yet to be realised.

That was the time the great lakes region was coming out of a period of civil strife and turmoil.

The great lakes region of Africa has stabilised somewhat. It is the Arab north and the horn of Africa that have turned into hotbeds of violence and organised chaos. Lesotho went to the polls again this month.

It is the third national poll in the last five years. This did not make the news in my beloved land of the Kilimanjaro and Serengeti. Tragically, the enstranged wife of the prime minister elect was gunned down in a village many miles from the capital.

The new Prime Minister Dipolelo Thabane was sworn into office on Friday16th June 2017. That swearing in ceremony must have been a sombre affair. The inauguration was held two days after the death of the missus.

The BBC reports Mr Thabane's ABC party defeated his bitter rival Pakalitha Mosisili's party in a snap election.

The new prime minister won 48 of the 80 directly contested seats but had to join with three other smaller parties to get the majority numbers needed to form government.

The motive for the killing of Ms Lipolelo has yet to be determined. Thabane attended his inauguration with another wife Ma Isaia Ramoholi. In Mogadishu it was business as usual. Violent attacks by Al-Shabab claimed yet more lives.

Twenty five people died from a bomb attack and shooting and scores suffered injuries and psychological trauma. This is the holy month of Ramadan. Somalia is overwhelmingly Muslim.

Does killing fellow muslims during the month of fasting and repentance a cause for divine blessings? In Cameroon, a Catholic bishop was found dead miles from his official residence. Bishop Bala of Bafia disappeared for two days.

Then his car was found on a bridge. Afterwards his body was recovered in Sanaga river more than 80 km from the capital Yaounde. Who would want the demise of a man of God? Neither the motive nor the perpetrators has been established.

The bishops in Cameroon issued a statement on 13th June stating that bishop Jean Marie Bala did not die of suicide as was alleged earlier.

There were signs of torture on his body and preliminary autopsy showed he was dead before his body was in the water. French president Emanuel Marcon was in Morocco on what has been called a work and friendship visit.

During his two-day stay the president had iftar with King Mohamed VI and discussed a host of bilateral issues with his host. Macron urged Qatar and its neighbours to talk directly as a way to diffuse the current tensions between Qatar and other Arab nations regarding allegations of terrorism financing. Macron called for the clarification of all the connections and financing of terrorist groups.

This is important especially in the current situation where fingers are pointing only to Qatar. It is unlikely that Qatar is the only culprit. Who is financing the Boko Haram and Al-Shabab, the two groups doing most harm to East and West Africans? Boko Haram fighters in Nigeria continue to kill civilians, mostly Christians.

A number of girls abducted by the rebel movement have recently been rescued and reunited with villages.

Is the Nigerian army winning the war against Christians? The impact of the war being waged by this group to local communities has been tremendous.

According to the UN office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs, since 2009 the Boko Haram conflict has resulted into 20,000 people killed, thousands of women and girls abducted and more than two million people displaced. Of those displaced, 200,000 are in Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

Now north-eastern Nigeria is facing famine. And so are Cameroon villages bordering Nigeria. More people are poised to die from hunger and disease. Displaced populations unable to grow food, conduct trade, go to school and participate in normal daily activities are likely to sink into abject poverty.

The world food programme (WFP) announced on 13 June that 5.2 million people are facing extreme hunger in north eastern Nigeria. When famine is finally declared, it is usually too late to make an impact even if the food is made immediately available.

Already 450,000 children below five years of age are suffering from severe acute malnutrition. Any mild infection on any of these children can push the child to death. Boko Haram and Al-Shabab may look like problems for Nigeria and Somalia but they are really a problem for all of Africa.

Radical copycat islamist groups are springing up in other African countries, emboldened by what they see as 'success', tenacity and the misguided heroism of such groups. African countries must come up with regional strategies for addressing religious fanaticism.

Meanwhile, in South Africa the government is pushing ahead and has adopted a new mining code which requires mine operators to have 36 per cent ownership by black people. Share prices of several mining firms fell after the announcement.

Who exactly will this new policy benefit? Could it be the 80 per cent of the population who are black or a few wealthy black South Africans? In Mozambique, prime minister Carlos do Rosario has been forced to defend the government purchase of 18 luxurious Mercedes cars for parliament's governing body at US $3.8 million.

There is a governing board for parliament? And they need to travel in style too. Mozambican people were not amused at their government spending 8.5 billion/- for cars for a few bureaucrats while ordinary citizens struggle to get by daily.

Some took to social media to express their angst and frustration. Aluta continua. In my beloved Tanzania, the president and the people received with trepidation and dismay the second report detailing economic and legal impact of the practices of the mining sector for the last 18 or so years. And here too the struggle continues.

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