17 December 2022

Eritrea/Tigray: “Eritrea’s regional policy has largely been influenced by Ethiopia, its much more powerful southerly neighbour.” The TPLF (Tigray People’s Liberation Front) has for quite a long time been its main enemy – the TPLF reign in Addis only ended with Abiy’s prime ministership. That Asmara sided with him against Tigray in the war is no big surprise. But Eritrea’s interests go further than combatting Mekelle – Asmara wants anything but a “strong, united Ethiopia” which would risk to dominate it economically, militarily and diplomatically. “Asmara’s best-case scenario is a prolonged, unresolved conflict in Ethiopia in which the presence of Eritrean forces and political support are still required by Addis Ababa.” And that’s what was the case over the last two years. But if Addis and Mekelle really get talking again, then Eritrea might find itself isolated in no time – and back to “the pariah status (it) has occupied for most of the last two decades.” And if peace is restored within Ethiopia, then Addis could also become an enemy of Eritrea once again.

Ethiopia/Tigray/Eritrea: The Tigray famine – 40% are thought to suffer from extreme lack of food – “is not the result of a natural disaster: it is a famine induced by the closure of the borders of Tigray by Ethiopian, Eritrean and Somali forces, reinforced by militia from Ethiopia’s Amhara and Afar ethnic groups.” When famine struck in the mid-1980s, both the Eritrean and the Tigrayan liberation movements “used a lifeline through Sudan” – and that is in memory of this that Asmara (in its alliance with Ethiopia and Somalia) “fought so hard to sever ties between Tigray and Sudan” from end 2020 onwards. The Eritrean liberation movement had, in fact, also cut supply lines for the Tigrayan liberation movement. And though they finally reconciled and together won against Addis in 1991, that “rift never really healed”. And then there was the disaster of the border war 1998-2000 with Eritrea “outwitted and outgunned (…) militarily (and) outmanoeuvred (…) diplomatically in the years following the conflict.”

Tigray/Ethiopia: Tigray’s “heritage sites have been deliberately targeted” in the war. Bombing and destroying churches means attacking sacred spaces – sacred more in a cultural than a religious sense: “Looting and attacking them is a grave dishonouring of cultural values.” According to the article’s author’s network of informers in Tigray, hundreds of sacred sites have been affected. “Most of the historical artefacts (Ethiopia) is famous for are originally from today’s Tigray”, e.g., the Aksumite Monuments. The Battle of Adwa, by the way, where Ethiopians fought off the Italian colonisers, was in Tigray.

16 December 2022

South Africa: With the ANC in crisis – “(f)actionalism, association with corruption and poor governance (having been its) undoing” – this short article points to five former The Conversation articles dealing with the ANC’s problems. With the ANC apparently uncapable to reform, with corruption rife and its lack of capability to govern proven many a time (at national, provincial, local level), is continuation of the party’s decline and its demise inescapable?

South Africa/Oliver Tambo & the ANC’s transiting to democracy: The article discusses a book (Andre Odendaal’s “Dear Comrade President: Oliver Tambo and the Foundations of South Africa’s Constitution”) focussing the period starting in 1985 that saw the ANC moving from the pursuit of armed revolution to multiparty democracy. The “442-page book unpicks the process of adopting constitutional principles that included support for multiparty democracy and a bill of rights”, started by ANC leader Oliver Tambo, at its heart a seven-person constitution committee which included Kader Asmal, Pallo Jordan, Albie Sachs, Jack Simon and Zola Skweyiya. The document produced in 1988 by the committee was the ANC’s basis for negotiations that led to the handover of power.

South Africa: The article ponders the question whether the country would be better off without Cyril Ramaphosa at its helm, seen that his anti-corruption agenda has been seriously compromised by the Phala Phala scandal. And it also asks the question, whether South Africa wouldn’t be better off without the ANC. The author comes to the conclusion “that the country needs to start thinking of life without the ANC in charge”, even if that is likely to mean unstable coalitions for the near future.

Fake medicine/Children/Egypt: Counterfeit medicines have killed several Egyptian children recently, a 2-year-old died after injection of counterfeit medicine. An estimate of the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene puts the number of child deaths because of counterfeit medicines at 300,000 per year. “There are up to 155,000 childhood deaths annually due to falsified anti-malaria drugs and a similar number of children dying from acute pneumonia after treatment with falsified and substandard (FS) antimicrobials.”
BBC Africa Live 16 December 2022. 5:03

Benin: The Marine Project is about building a slavery theme park in Ouidah – in the days of the Triangular Trade the Bight of Benin’s main slave port. It is to “include a hotel spa, a lifesize replica of a slave ship, memorial gardens, a craft market and an arena for vodun performances”, hoping to become “a major destination for Afro-descendant tourists in the diaspora”. Commodification of heritage, yes, and the mass tourism project also raises ecological concerns: will it not have “adverse impact on an area known for its unique ecosystem and biodiversity”? Nearby and also on the waterfront, “gigantic” Club Med’s d’Avlékété resort is under construction. The article discusses differing memorial strategies dealing with enslavement. A 4’50’’ video about the planned Marine Project can be watched at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wozQKSPLJ8s&feature=emb_imp_woyt.