Planet Watch
Fikile Ntshangase

Record number of ecologists slain in 2020

A record number of environmental defenders were murdered last year, according to a report by advocacy group Global Witness. The report, “Last Line of Defense,” counts 227 activists killed around the world in 2020—the highest number recorded for a second consecutive year. Many of the murders were linked to resource exploitation—logging, mining, agribusiness, and hydroelectric dams. Since the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, the organization found on average of four activists have been killed each week. (Photo via Groundwork)

Africa
cabo delgado

Rwanda’s quick win in Mozambique: how real?

Rwandan and Mozambican troops retook the port city of Mocímboa da Praia from Islamist militants—their last stronghold in Mozambique’s northern Cabo Delgado province. The 1,000 Rwandan troops, who arrived in the country last month to help the government battle a four-year insurgency, have proved their effectiveness in a series of skirmishes. They are also being joined by units from regional neighbors Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. But analysts are warning that the insurgents—known colloquially as al-Shabab—are choosing not to stand their ground, preferring to retreat into the countryside. Military force doesn’t address the drivers of the conflict, nor does it prevent ill-disciplined Mozambican troops—who often struggle to distinguish between insurgent and civilian—from stoking further tensions through abuses of the populace. More than 3,000 people have been killed and 820,000 displaced by the conflict. (Map via Moscow Times)

Planet Watch
hiroshima

Podcast: Hiroshima at 76

In Episode 83 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes signs of hope on the 76th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, with the city’s Mayor Kazumi Matsui calling on the world’s nations to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. President Trump walked away from US-Russia nuclear arms control treaties, and China is now rapidly expanding its nuclear arsenal. Ukraine and Syria are ominously likely flashpoints for superpower conflict. But South Africa provides a shining example of progress—under the leadership of Nelson Mandela, newly post-apartheid South Africa became the first and only nation on Earth to willingly dismantle its nuclear weapons. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: Hiroshima Day vigil 2014, via Nihon zan Myohoji Buddhist Peace Council)

Africa
south africa riot

South Africa’s eruption: not just about Zuma

Violence and looting that left some 120 dead in South Africa diminished after thousands of troops were deployed onto the streets of the hotspot provinces. But the unrest was the worst since the end of apartheid, and has disrupted a stuttering vaccination program amid a COVID-19 third wave that is straining health services. Protests erupted after the jailing of ex-president Jacob Zuma, who refused to appear before a corruption inquiry. However, the unrest reflects broader frustrations, as pandemic restrictions result in job losses, deepening poverty in one of the world’s most unequal countries. One bystander in Johannesburg told a TV crew: “The matter is not about Zuma. People are hungry.” (Photo: MwanzoTV)

Africa
cabo delgado

Foreign troops deploy in Mozambique

Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi is usually wary of foreign military intervention. But the grim situation in Cabo Delgado seems to have forced his hand. Rwanda is deploying a 1,000-strong force to the insurgency-hit northern province. And troops from the Southern African Development Community regional bloc are also set to arrive. Reports suggest the Rwandans will set up around the Afungi peninsula, where a multi-billion dollar gas project is located. Their battlefield enemy—known locally as al-Shabab—is formidable and entrenched, as Mozambique’s army and its mercenary allies know well. Lost in the military chatter is much mention of Cabo Delgado’s worsening humanitarian crisis: More than 700,000 people have been uprooted, and close to a million are now facing severe hunger. (Map via Moscow Times)

Africa
eswatini

Uprising and repression in Eswatini

The government of Eswatini, Africa’s last absolute monarchy, has launched what Amnesty International calls a “ruthless crackdown” in response to pro-democracy protests, with dozens killed and many others tortured, detained or abducted. Protests broke out last month, following the mysterious death of a 25-year-old law student, Thabani Nkomonye, in May, allegedly at the hands of the police. In late June, these protests grew into daily marches in several cities and towns around the kingdom. While the demonstrations were mostly peaceful, there were instances in which businesses linked to the monarchy were looted and torched. The protests have waned since the wave of repression was unleashed, but the opposition People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) pledges to carry on the struggle. (Photo: Swazi students from University of Pretoria protest at Eswatini embassy. Via Twitter)

Africa
Somkhele

South Africa: coal mine opponent killed in KwaZulu

Four gunmen shot and killed local anti-mining activist Fikile Ntshangase at her home in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province. Ntshangase, 65, was a leading member of the Mfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organisation (MCEJO), which is taking legal action to prevent the expansion of an open-cast coal mine at Somkhele, on the southeastern border of the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi game park. MCEJO also says the mine’s existing operations should be halted because they are not compliant with environmental and other laws. The murder points to escalating pressure on communities across South Africa to accept environmentally damaging mining operations on their lands. (Image: Divided We Dance)

Africa
Central African Republic

CAR: accused war criminal runs for president

Amid rising tensions and insecurity in the Central African Republic, deposed former president François Bozizé has announced his candidacy for the upcoming presidential elections, scheduled for December. Bozizé is currently under UN sanctions and subject to an arrest warrant issued by the government for “crimes against humanity and incitement to genocide.” He is accused of having backed a brutal rebel movement after his ouster in 2013, fueling a civil war that has left millions displaced. However, authorities show little sign of moving to execute the warrant, and Bozizé has been openly working for a political comeback since returning to the country last year. (Map via Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection)

Planet Watch
Warsaw riot

Biological police state preparations advance

As rising strongmen in places like Poland and Ethiopia exploit the COVID-19 pandemic to postpone elections and grab extraordinary powers, even democratic countries are putting unprecedented police-state measure into place in the supposed interest of a return to “normality.” In the latter category is New Zealand, where a bill has been passed giving police sweeping powers to enter homes without warrants while enforcing new “Alert Level 2” rules. The COVID-19 Public Health Response Act creates a new corps of “enforcement officers” to track social contacts among the populace and conduct raids on the premises of suspected violators. (Photo of Warsaw police action via Twitter)

Planet Watch
#QuedeteEnCasa

Worldwide police-state measures in face of COVID-19

With whole nations under lockdown, sweeping powers are being assumed by governments across the world in the name of containing the COVID-19 pandemic. Hungary’s parliament voted to allow Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to rule by decree. The Russian parliament has approved an “anti-virus” package that includes up to seven years imprisonment for serious violations of quarantine rules. Israel has joined South Korea in authorizing use of personal cellphone data to track the virus. Chilean President Sebastian Piñera has declared a “state of catastrophe,” sending the military to public squares recently occupied by protesters. Military patrols are also enforcing the lockdown in Peru, Italy, Romania and South Africa. “We could have a parallel epidemic of authoritarian and repressive measures following close on the heels of a health epidemic,” said Fionnuala Ni Aolain, UN Special Rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights. (Photo: Peruvian army demonstration video, via YouTube)

Africa
Africa mining

Africa mining confab urged to address human rights

Amnesty International urged participants in an international mining conference in South Africa to address human rights violations. The African Mining Indaba conference is set to run this week, but civil organizations are holding their own counter-conference to bring attention to claims of rights violations in the industry. Amnesty said in a statement: “From child labour in the Democratic Republic of Congo to squalid living conditions for workers at South Africa’s Marikana mine, the mining industry is tainted with human rights abuses. Mining firms have often caused or contributed to human rights abuses in pursuit of profit while governments have been too weak in regulating them effectively.” (Photo via Africa Up Close)

Africa

Woman fights for chieftaincy in Lesotho

Under tradition, only men can inherit the chieftaincy title in Lesotho, the land-locked mountain kingdom of southern Africa, Now, one woman, Senate Masupha, is seeking to change this. Masupha is the only child of David Masupha, former chief of several villages and direct descendant of Moshoeshoe I, founder of the kingdom. When her father died in 1996, her mother took up the position, as tradition allowed widows of chiefs to become custodians of the title until a male heir is ready. But when her mother died in 2008, the title went to her uncle. Masupha challenged the kingdom's Chieftainship Act, but the courts ruled the law could only be changed by parliament—which has refused to act. Mamathe continues to assert her claim, and campaign for the rights of women in Lesotho. (Photo: Face2FaceAfrica)