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Africa News In Brief (10/22/13)

By October 23, 2013No Comments


Oct. 22 (GIN) – Mozambique, profiled as the next Norway enjoying a windfall from its recent finds in off-shore gas, may be headed for troubled waters instead.

A fragile peace has reigned over the southeast nation since a treaty in 1992 ended a 16 year long civil war. A pawn in the Cold War of the great powers, the coastal nation was heavily armed with U.S. and Russian weapons. Over a million people perished in the course of the war.

Still one of the poorest nations on earth, the détente between the Frelimo government and the opposition Renamo group blew up this month when government forces overran the jungle headquarters of Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama, who escaped.

“Peace is over in this country … The responsibility lies with the Frelimo government because they didn’t want to listen to Renamo’s grievances,” Renamo spokesman Fernando Mazanga told Reuters.

Renamo demands more representation in the armed forces and changes to the electoral law.

It is also possible that Renamo hopes to win a larger seat at the table when contracts are re-negotiated with multinational companies. Initial contracts, say some experts, gave away the store, giving foreign companies 15-year tax exemptions and mining and exploration licenses which they were free to trade.

Currently, a small elite associated with the ruling party and with strong business interests, dominates the economy.

Adriano Nuvunga, head of the Center for Public Integrity in the capital city Maputo, fears his country may not get the share of wealth it deserves. “There isn’t a way to find out whether the government has done good business,” he says. His concerns were rejected by the National Petroleum Institute (NPI). “We have a very transparent system,” said NPI chief Arsenio Mabote. “The environment in Mozambique is there for companies to invest without fearing that there is corruption.

“You can find documents and model contracts that we negotiate on our website. We have nothing to hide.”

Municipal elections are scheduled for Nov. 20, and presidential and parliamentary elections are to be held on Oct. 15 the following year. w/pix of Renamo members


Oct. 22 (GIN) – Members of the Dinka Ngok ethnic group are returning en masse to their homes in the oil-rich Abyei region, intent on a unilateral referendum on national identity that may have explosive consequences.

The exodus began after Sudanese leaders failed to schedule an internationally-backed referendum this month. It would have allowed all Abyei citizens to choose whether to be part of Sudan or South Sudan. Juba (South Sudan) says it supports a referendum, Khartoum is opposed and favors a negotiated political settlement.

Thousands are reported to be braving rivers of mud and bumpy truck rides while spending their savings to make the trip.

Two groups, the Misseriya, semi-nomadic people of Arab origin and the Ngok Dinka Abyei live in Abyei but the Misseriya are often out of the region, grazing cattle.

But according to South Sudan’s foreign minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin, there were few if any Messeriya in Abyei Dinka Ngok territory. “If there are any other residents, it could be some few Merreriyas, it could be some few Sudanese or few South Sudanese who could be there. But the territory is specifically for the Nile Ngok Dinka,” Benjamin said.

His claim was angrily refuted by Misseriya’s paramount chief Mukhtar Babu Nimir who threatened to take action, including war, if a vote was taken without their participation.

“We will not accept it,” he said of the proposed plebiscite. “We want the government of Sudan to be clear with us,” adding “if it fails, we will play our part in the liberation of our land in war and peace.”

Currently, some 4,000 Ethiopian-led UN peacekeepers patrol Abyei.

Meanwhile, a media blackout on the Abyei referendum in South Sudan has been imposed by the information minister, Michael Makuei Lueth. State-run radio and TV cannot cover or publish any announcements and mobilization campaigns in support of the proposed referendum, he said, “because some people show up at the station to talk unnecessarily.”


Oct. 22 (GIN) – Members of Food Sovereignty Ghana (FSG) and other environmental groups took the issue of food security to the streets in a march through Accra that linked up virtually with seven African countries from South Africa to Kenya.

It was the second annual march against genetically modified seeds, bioengineered food and its corporate backers, coupled with the perceived risks to small farmers incomes and to health.

This month, activists in Kenya, Ghana, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, Egypt and South Africa came out in force. Activists in Accra carried signs saying, “GMO will make Ghanaian farmers poor” and “Our Food Under Our Control!!!”

Public opposition to GM crops has grown in recent years. Critics assert that DNA-altered crops require massive chemical inputs which destroy local biodiversity and poison the water tables; create superweeds; and cause organ damage, sterility, and diabetes and obesity in mammals. Nevertheless, the Ghana government continues to lean toward GMOs and a field trial of GMO cow peas is currently underway.

Perhaps most important to African farmers, imported GM seeds are the intellectual property of the multinationals and cannot be saved for future use as is the practice of small farmers worldwide. Seed purchases every year versus the saving of seeds year to year are a heavy if not unsustainable burden on small farmers, warns Food Sovereignty Ghana.

The “control of our resources by multinational corporations and other foreign entities,” must be avoided, FSG said on their Facebook page.

They cited a recent UN report which noted that hunger is not caused by a food shortage but by “a lack of purchasing power and/or the inability of the rural poor to be self-sufficient.”

“The engagement in the market was very surprising and drew a lot of curiosity,” said Ras Aswad Nkrabea, the group’s director of mobilization. “It resulted in us being invited to meet with the market queens in the near future to make sure they are well informed about these issues.”


Oct. 22 (GIN) – Twenty-seven years after his death, the celebrated leader of Mozambique and its first president, Samora Machel, remains a symbol of resistance and hope

Machel — who died on Oct. 19, 1986 – was called a thoughtful and decisive leader who died too soon.

He died in a plane crash while on his way back from the Lusaka summit in Zambia to be in time for the birthday of his wife, Graca Machel. The Tupolev 134 plane went down at Mbuzini, a village in what is now eastern Mpumalanga. More than 30 others perished in the crash.

Many believe that the South African apartheid regime orchestrated the incident although a commission that investigated the incident blamed pilot error.

According to Graca Machel in testimony before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, at a Malawi government crisis meeting at the time, the possibility of assassinating Machel had been raised. The report does not make clear the source of the rumor.

Graca Machel also told the hearing that her husband had been subject to assassination attempts prior to the crash.

Less than fifteen years later – but in another South Africa – Nelson Mandela stood in Mbuzini and gave a moving speech in honor of “a statesman, soldier and intellectual who we claimed as our leader too”.

Unveiling a monument to Machel in 1999, Mandela reflected on the unresolved mystery of the crash and the hope for transparency and justice.

“It is painful that our quest to understand the causes of the crash remains unfinished. The work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, imperfect as it may be, has laid a foundation … It has taken us further towards our goal of bringing a legitimate and credible conclusion to the uncertainties about the event on this hillside some twelve years ago.”

At the end of 2012, the Hawks announced that they were finally launching an investigation into the accident. That was in December. If there has been any substantial progress since then, it has not been made public.


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