Africa News blog
African business, politics and lifestyle
President Barack Obama’s decision to end trade benefits for Guinea, Madagascar and Niger shows some stiffening of Washington’s resolve to act against those seen to be moving in the opposite direction to demands for greater democracy in Africa.
But the fact that new benefits were simultaneously extended to Mauritania may also give a lesson in how would-be coup makers should best behave if they want to get away with it.
In the first three countries, there is no clear idea as to how they will return to a form of government more acceptable in the eyes of Western countries or those of their neighbours.
Guinea and Madagascar in particular both look in real danger of much greater turmoil.
Millions of years ago, Madagascar separated from the other continents and evolved separately. Today it has about 12,000 plants most of which can be found nowhere else in the world. Many of these plants have medicinal properties, but their habitat is under threat.
In the town of Tolear, people rely on herbs as the nearest hospital is far away. Traditional healers combine plants and a little bit of magic to cure patients.
The overthrow of Madagascar’s leader may have had nothing to do with events elsewhere in Africa, but after four violent changes of power within eight months the question is bound to arise as to whether the continent is returning to old ways.
Three years without coups between 2005 and last year had appeared to some, including foreign investors, to have indicated a fundamental change from the first turbulent decades after independence. This spate of violent overthrows could now be another reason for investors to tread more warily again, particularly as Africa feels the impact of the global financial crisis.
It seems Madagascar’s slow-motion coup has at last come to a head with the removal of President Marc Ravalomanana, announced almost casually in a text message from one of his aides.
The change has been a long time coming — the first outbreaks of violence were in January — and it’s all rather different from what many would regard as the traditional African coup d’etat.
In a worst case scenario, tanks in Antananarivo could lead to battles between the police and the presidential guard — who remain loyal to President Marc Ravalomanana — against mutinous troops and members of the military police.
In the relative political calm of the Indian Ocean, Madagascar has long been a centre of turbulence.
Now another political crisis is brewing as the opposition accuses President Marc Ravalomanana of abuse of power and threatening democracy. Tens of thousands of opposition protesters demonstrated in Antananarivo on Wednesday, two days after an earlier rally descended into violence that left nearly 40 people dead.
The announcement by a U.S. investor that he has a deal to lease a swathe of South Sudan for farmland has again focused attention on foreigners trying to snap up African agricultural land.
A few months ago, South Korea’s Daweoo Logistics said it had secured rights to plant corn and palm oil in an even bigger patch of Madagascar – although local authorities said the deal was not done yet. Investors from Asia and the Gulf are looking elsewhere in Africa too.
Should we really care that Britain’s House of Lords upheld a British government appeal on Wednesday, blocking the return of hundreds of Chagossians to their Indian Ocean homes?The decision by the House of Lords ends a years-long battle to secure the Chagos Islanders the right to return to their archipelago, from where they were forcibly removed in the 1960s and ’70s to make way for an American airbase on Diego Garcia.
By a ruling of 3-2, the lords backed a British government appeal that argued that allowing the islanders to return could have a detrimental effect on defence and international security. It’s a tough decision and an agonizing result for the Chagos islanders. They continue to suffer appalling injustice because of the British government, who booted them out of the Chagos islands – also known as the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) – to make way for a US military base.