Category Archives: Africa

Deadly flash floods hit east African countries already in dire need

by Samuel Okiror
The Guardian – Global Development
May 8 2018

In Kenya, Rwanda and Somalia death toll reaches 300, with hundreds of thousands more people displaced, adding to crisis in region stricken by drought…

East Africa - Kenya-Rwanda-Somalia Flash Flooding
Floodwaters in the coastal Tana Delta region of Kenya. Torrential rains have caused severe flooding across 32 of the country’s 47 counties. Photograph: Andrew Kasuku/AFP/Getty Images

Heavy rains and severe flash floods have left more than 300 people dead and displaced thousands of others across parts of east Africa, with Kenya and Rwanda being the worst hit.

“We are concerned about the flooding that has displaced so many people in Somalia, Kenya and Rwanda,” said Farhan Aziz Haq, deputy spokesman for the UN secretary general in a statement to the Guardian.

“Our hearts go out to all the people who have been harmed by the rains and flash floods,” he said.

In Kenya ongoing torrential rains have damaged infrastructure, preventing or limiting humanitarian access to many of the affected areas and cutting off people’s access to markets in several places.

“Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that heavy rainfall in Kenya has caused severe flooding in at least 32 counties, out of 47, across the country. An estimated 100 people have lost their lives and 260,000 others have been displaced,” said Haq.

Euloge Ishimwe, of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said it is a “double jeopardy” for the affected communities, as many of them are already struggling to recover from the devastating drought in 2017, after which more than 2.6 million Kenyans were in urgent need of food aid.

“The livelihoods and resilience of the affected communities had already been weakened… With the flooding, we are worried that these communities will be further rendered more vulnerable.”

The extreme weather has compounded a cholera outbreak in the country as well as an epidemic of the mosquito-borne chikungunya virus, and is increasing the risk of large-scale outbreaks.

The number of cholera cases reported since the beginning of 2018 stands at 2,943, with 55 deaths, according to the UN’s Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Unocha).

In a statement, Unocha said education and health facilities have been damaged in the flooding, and the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) said roads and train lines had been destroyed. Extensive damages and losses have been reported to fields and livestock, with at least 8,700 hectares (21,5000) acres of farmland destroyed and more than 19,000 animals killed.

Continue Reading: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2018/may/08/deadly-flash-floods-east-africa-dire-need-kenya-rwanda-somalia

 

Young Zimbabweans ditch drugs for performing arts

Young Zimbabweans ditch drugs for performing arts
by Jeffrey Moyo
Thomas Reuters Foundation
March 12, 2018

ZWtheatreintheparkyouth
Young people with the Ngoma Yorira Theatre Association get ready for a performance at “Theatre in the Park” in Harare, Zimbabwe, as they campaign against drug abuse, on Feb, 2, 2018. Photo: Thomson Reuters Foundation/Jeffrey Moyo

HARARE, March 12 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Jimmy Gata, 19, recites an anti-drugs poem at “Theatre in the Park” in Zimbabwe’s capital Harare, jumping and gesturing on the stage, as spectators clap and cheer on the former addict.

Before finding his passion for the spoken word, Gata regularly took BronCleer, a cough syrup often smuggled in from South Africa that contains codeine, a painkiller similar to morphine. If enough is drunk, it also intoxicates like alcohol.

“Since Ngoma Yorira Theatre Association took me in to learn about film-making and acting and poetry, I have had no time for (BronCleer),” said Gata, a trained motor mechanic.

There are no accurate figures on the number of drug users in Zimbabwe. The Ministry of Health and Child Care says about 3,000 people nationwide are suffering mental illness directly related to drug abuse.

For 19-year-old Innocent Ndaramashe, an emerging R&B and hip-hop music star who was addicted to substances like BronCleer, the performing arts came to his rescue just in time.

“My music encourages my peers not to consume drugs because they damage our health,” Ndaramashe told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “As a young man who has been taking drugs, I decided to preach against the abuse of drugs through my music career.”

In a country where many people struggle to earn a living in the informal economy, the theatre association has also helped out the poor and hungry.

“(It) gives food parcels, groceries to the needy in my community of which I am also a beneficiary because I am very old,” said 73-year-old Tambudzai Mlambo, a resident of Mbare township in Harare.

STATE SUPPORT

As Zimbabwe battles drug abuse made worse by a shortage of jobs for young people, the government acknowledges the contribution of the community arts scene.

“Groups that have of late emerged have helped to keep former drug addicts focused on theatre or art. This diverts their attention from drugs to concentrate on something new and positive for their wellbeing,” said Dorcas Sithole, deputy director of the Ministry of Health’s mental health department.

The state is doing what it can to fight drug abuse in tough circumstances, she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“We are trying to prevent drug users from turning into addicts,” she said, explaining how the government puts them on withdrawal programmes in hospital and is also planning to open rehabilitation centres.

In addition, anti-drugs activists say there is a need for occupational therapy such as theatre, which also helps young people build their self-esteem.

“Nurturing talent provides an avenue for accomplishment as opposed to helplessness which is associated with the onset of drug use,” said Hilton Nyamukapa, programme coordinator for the Zimbabwe Civil Liberties and Drug Network.

Established seven years ago, the national network advocates for strategies to address problems linked to drug use in Zimbabwe and across Southern Africa.
Former drug addict Innocent Ndaramashe, now an up-and-coming musician, works in a studio in Harare, Zimbabwe, on Feb. 14, 2018.

Former drug addict Innocent Ndaramashe, now an up-and-coming musician, works in a studio in Harare, Zimbabwe, on Feb. 14, 2018.

COMMUNITY CARE

A pioneer of the idea of using theatre to tackle drug problems, Ernest Nyatanga, founder and president of the Ngoma Yorira Theatre Association, said his organisation pays former addicts for their acting.

“Rewarding former drug users for their performances in theatre helps to motivate them and cultivate in them a desire to work for themselves,” he told Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Recently the association shot films highlighting social and economic issues facing the country, such as “The Delinquent” which depicts a misled young man who takes drugs while in school. The films are shown at Harare’s “Theatre in The Park”.

Nyatanga said the association donates some of the proceeds from its performances – which it stages in townships in remote areas too – to local orphanages and poor widows.

And it has helped feed people going hungry when drought hit food supplies in rural and urban areas.

It also recruits community members to sell recordings of theatre productions on a commission basis by the roadside.

“We are an association that lives amongst ordinary people, and we care for their needs,” Nyatanga said.

So far, the theatre association has helped more than 340 individuals change their lives for the better, 30 percent of whom were hooked on drugs, he said.

Parents like Linda Masarira, 36, whose 18-year-old son was an addict but has now resumed his secondary-school studies, are grateful for its work.

“It is a miracle – my son is reforming; he is now an upcoming hip-hop star while he is also into theatre and as a result he has… stopped using drugs,” Masarira said.

FAITH AND FOOTBALL

Community religious groups like the Christian Youths Fellowship Association (CYFA) based in Chegutu, a farming town 100 km (62 miles) west of Harare in Mashonaland West Province, have also joined the fight against drugs.

Patrick Imbayago, founder and director of the CYFA, said his group has shown anti-drugs films in urban and rural townships.

“After seeing these kinds of films, few would return to drug abuse because… drug abusers are shown as eventually losing their marbles, going mad,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The CYFA also funds football training for young people. “The more we occupy them with social activities like soccer, the less our youths turn to drug abuse,” said Imbayago.


Reporting by Jeffrey Moyo; editing by Megan Rowling.

Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, resilience, women’s rights, trafficking and property rights. Visit http://news.trust.org/

 

 

LA SITUATION EN REPUBLIQUE DEMOCRATIQUE DU CONGO

COMMUNIQUE DE PRESSE: LA SITUATION EN REPUBLIQUE DEMOCRATIQUE DU CONGO

Posted by José Luis Gutiérrez Aranda | Fév 13, 2018 | Afrique | 0

Le Réseau Afrique Europe Foi et Justice (AEFJN) est un réseau de plaidoyer des congrégations religieuses de l’Église catholique en Europe et en Afrique.

RDC-Press-Release-Reuters-440x264
DRC – Reuters

Nous notons, avec un cœur douloureux, le climat politique actuel, chargé et inutile, en République Démocratique du Congo. La tension a commencé à la suite du refus du président Joseph Kabila d’organiser des élections à la fin de son mandat en 2016. Il a mis de côté un accord conclu et signé le 31 décembre 2016 sous les auspices de la Conférence épiscopale nationale du Congo (CENCO) à la Saint-Sylvestre pour lui donner l’opportunité d’organiser des élections en 2017. En guise de suivi, le climat politique de la RD Congo et la condition socio-économique des citoyens ont été affectés négativement. Le refus du président Kabila d’organiser des élections en 2017, comme convenu en 2016, et de démissionner, est une violation flagrante du droit du peuple à choisir son chef. Nous considérons le prétendu calendrier des élections du 23 décembre 2018 comme un écran de fumée et un moyen de prolonger le règne du président Kabila.

Nous avons également noté avec une grande préoccupation les autres violations des droits humains RD Congo, contraires à la déclaration du gouvernement Kabila. Selon l’ONU, il y a eu 1176 exécutions extrajudiciaires en 2017; 30% de plus qu’en 2016. Le 31 décembre 2017, le gouvernement de Kabila a ordonné aux fournisseurs de télécommunications de couper les services Internet et SMS à travers le pays avant les manifestations antigouvernementales planifiées. Le 31 décembre 2017, au moins sept personnes ont perdu la vie. Les forces de sécurité ont tiré et blessé des douzaines d’autres alors qu’elles envoyaient des gaz lacrymogènes pour disperser des manifestations pacifiques organisées par l’Eglise catholique. Au moins 600 personnes sont en prison! Les enlèvements, les meurtres, la torture, le viol et le déplacement de personnes sont devenus une décimale récurrente, portant le nombre de personnes déplacées à 4,25 millions en 2017. La manifestation organisée par l’Eglise catholique le 21 janvier 2018 et soutenue par d’autres communautés chrétiennes et musulmanes dans différentes villes n’a pas eu lieu sans pertes. Rien qu’à Kinshasa, selon des rapports, six personnes ont été tuées par les forces de sécurité, une cinquantaine blessées et plusieurs autres arrêtées. L’histoire n’est pas différente à Goma et Bukavu où, selon des rapports, environ 50 personnes ont été blessées, arrêtées ou tuées. La liste s’allonge encore et encore, mais les attaques de plus en plus violentes contre les travailleurs humanitaires et les forces de maintien de la paix forcent les organisations humanitaires à retarder la livraison de l’aide ou à suspendre leurs activités.

Nous condamnons ces suppressions violentes des droits humains fondamentaux et appelons le président Kabila à faire preuve de retenue, à libérer inconditionnellement tous les prisonniers politiques qui ont été détenus alors qu’ils participaient à des manifestations pacifiques et à organiser immédiatement des élections libres et équitables. Nous affirmons que c’est sa responsabilité constitutionnelle de protéger les vies et les biens du peuple de la RD Congo. Nous recommandons fortement la reconstitution de la Commission électorale du Congo CENI pour inclure les acteurs de la société civile et de l’Église et les autres parties prenantes. Nous condamnons également en termes très forts le projet de loi présenté à l’Assemblée nationale congolaise pour réglementer les ONG et les défenseurs des droits humains. Nous appelons les honorables parlementaires à rejeter le projet de loi et à assumer leur responsabilité de protéger les droits du peuple.

Si nous nous abstenons d’un jugement hâtif sur le silence de l’Union Européenne et des États membres sur la situation au Congo, il n’en demeure pas moins très préoccupant. En conséquence, nous implorons l’UE, ses États membres et la communauté internationale de s’opposer à ce comportement insensé et de tenir le président Kabila pour responsable de ses violations des droits humains. Nous nous félicitons à cet égard de l’utilisation de sanctions ciblées par l’UE et de l’utilisation de moyens supplémentaires, comme le prévoient les lois internationales en vigueur, si les progrès vers une solution pacifique restent insaisissables.

L’UE dispose d’un immense espace pour démontrer son engagement ferme à soutenir la démocratie et la protection des droits humains dans la région. C’est une valeur qui constitue une véritable valeur ajoutée de la coopération européenne par rapport aux autres partenaires internationaux de la RD du Congo. En ce qui concerne le soutien technique au processus électoral, nous demandons à l’UE de réitérer sa volonté de collaborer avec des partenaires internationaux pour s’assurer qu’un plan clair et complet soit mis en place pour financer les élections congolaises et de communiquer largement ce plan. L’UE devrait également être convaincue qu’il existe un calendrier crédible et une volonté politique claire de tenir les élections. L’objectif est de voir qu’un manque de ressources ne fait pas dérailler les plans pour les élections.

Enfin, nous saluons avec beaucoup de gratitude la contribution de l’Union Européenne aux résolutions des conflits et impasses internationaux. Alors que nous attendons l’intervention de l’Union Européenne dans l’impasse qui fait rage dans la République Démocratique du Congo, AEFJN reste attaché à tous les efforts pour accorder à chaque personne humaine les droits inaliénables et continuera inlassablement à exposer les structures économiques et sociales injustes.

Chika Onyejiuwa

Executive Secretary
chykacssp@hotmail.com
http://aefjn.org/en/home/

Document en PDF

Le Réseau Afrique Europe Foi et Justice (AEFJN) est un réseau de plaidoyer des congrégations religieuses de l’Église catholique en Europe et en Afrique. Nous travaillons pour la justice dans les relations économiques entre l’Europe et l’Afrique et notre Secrétariat international est au 174, rue Joseph II, à Bruxelles.

The Situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Posted by José Luis Gutiérrez Aranda | Feb 13, 2018 | Africa |

RDC-Press-Release-Reuters-440x264
RDC-Press Release (Reuters)

Africa Europe Faith and Justice Network (AEFJN) is an advocacy network of Catholic Church Religious Congregations in Europe and Africa.

(Press Release – February 13, 2018) We note, with painful hearts, the present charged and unhelpful political climate in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The tension began as a result of President Joseph Kabila’s refusal to organise elections at the end of his mandate in 2016. He has set aside an agreement that was reached and signed on December 31, 2016 under the auspices of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) at Saint-Sylvester to give him an opportunity to organise elections in 2017. As a follow-up, the political climate of DR Congo and the socio-economic condition of the citizens have been adversely affected. The refusal of President Kabila to organise elections in 2017 as agreed in 2016 and to step down from office is a gross violation of the people’s right to choose their leader. We consider the purported scheduling of election on December 23, 2018 a smokescreen and a device to prolong President Kabila’s rule.

We have also noticed with great concern the other human rights violations in DR Congo contrary to the declaration of Kabila government. The UN has it on record that there were 1176 extrajudicial killings in 2017; 30% higher than the record of 2016. On December 31, 2017, the government of Kabila ordered telecommunications providers to cut off internet and SMS services across the country ahead of planned anti-government demonstrations. On December 31, 2017, at least seven people lost their lives. Security forces shot and wounded dozens of others as they fired tear gas to disperse peaceful demonstrations organised by the Catholic Church. At least 600 people are in prison! Kidnapping, killings, torture, rape and displacement of people have become a recurrent decimal, bringing the record of displaced people to 4.25 million in 2017. The protest called by the Catholic Church on January 21, 2018 and supported by other Christian and Muslim Communities in different towns did not take place without casualties. In Kinshasa alone, six people were reportedly killed by security forces, about 50 wounded and several others arrested. The story in not different in Goma and Bukavu where about 50 people were reported wounded or arrested or killed. The list goes on and on, but the height of it is the increasingly violent attacks against aid workers and peacekeeping forces thus forcing humanitarian organisations to delay the delivery of aid or suspend their activities.

We condemn such violent suppressions of Fundamental Human Rights and call on President Kabila to show restraint, release unconditionally all political prisoners who were detained while engaged in peaceful protests and organise free and fair elections immediately. We affirm that it is his constitutional responsibility to protect the lives and properties the people of DR Congo. We strongly recommend the reconstitution of the Congo Electoral Commission CENI to include the Civil Society and Church actors and the other stakeholders. We also condemn in very strong terms the draft law introduced in the Congolese National Assembly to regulate NGOs and Human Rights Defenders. We call on the honourable lawmakers to throw out the draft law and live up to their responsibility to protect the Rights of the people.

While we refrain from a hasty judgement about the silence of the European Union and Member states on the situation in Congo, it is nonetheless very worrisome. Accordingly, we implore the EU, its Member States and the international community to stand up against this senseless behaviour and hold President Kabila accountable for his Human Rights abuses. We welcome in this regard, the use of EU-targeted sanctions, and considerations of employing additional means, as provided by extant International laws if progress towards a peaceful solution remains elusive.

A huge space is available to EU to demonstrate its firm commitment to supporting democracy and the protection of human rights in the region. It is a value that constitutes a truly added value of European cooperation in comparison to the other international partners to Congo DR. Regarding technical support for the electoral process, we call on the EU to reiterate its willingness to collaborate with international partners to ensure that a clear and comprehensive plan is put in place to finance the Congolese elections and to communicate this plan widely. The EU should also be satisfied that there are a credible timeline and a clear political will to hold the elections. The aim is to see that a lack of resources does not derail the plans for the elections.

Finally, we commend with high regards the input of the European Union in the resolutions of international conflicts and impasses. While we await the intervention of the European Union in the raging standoff in the Congo DR, AEFJN remains committed to all efforts to accord every human person the due inalienable rights and will tirelessly continue to expose unjust economic and social structures.

Chika Onyejiuwa
Executive Secretary
Africa Europe Faith and Justice Network
chykacssp@hotmail.com
http://aefjn.org/en/home/
Document in pdf
Africa Europe Faith and Justice Network (AEFJN) is an advocacy network of Catholic Church Religious Congregations in Europe and Africa. We work for justice in the economic relations between Europe and Africa and our International Secretariat is at 174, Rue Joseph II, Brussels.

We Have Seen The Future of Water, And It Is Cape Town

by Peter H. Gleick
Guest Writer
Huffington Post (2/9/2018)

Morgana Wingard via Getty Images
Cape Town residents queue to refill water bottles on Jan. 30, 2018. Diminishing water supplies may soon lead to the taps being turned off for the four million inhabitants of Cape Town. (Morgana Wingard via Getty Images)

Cape Town is parched. Severe drought and high water use have collided in South Africa’s second largest city, and unless the drought breaks, residents may run out of water in the next few months when there simply isn’t enough water left to supply the drinking water taps.

In response to this looming “Day Zero” currently projected in May? city managers have imposed new and unprecedented restrictions, including limiting residential water use to 50 liters (around 13 gallons) per person per day. They released plans to open 200 community water points to provide emergency water in the event of a shutoff – for four million people. As the crisis worsens, water scarcity will sharpen South Africa’s economic inequalities, inflaming tensions between wealthier and disadvantaged communities.

Cape Town is not alone. Water crises are getting worse all over the world. The past few years have seen more and more extreme droughts and floods around the globe. California just endured the worst five-year drought on record, followed by the wettest year on record. São Paulo, Brazil, recently suffered a severe drought that drastically cut water supplies to its 12 million inhabitants – a drought that also ended in heavy rainfall, which caused extreme flooding. Houston was devastated in 2017 by Hurricane Harvey, the most extreme precipitation event to hit any major city in the United States.

Severe droughts and floods. Water rationing. Economic and political disruption. Urban taps running dry. Is this the future of water?

Any city, in building a water system, tries to prepare for extreme weather, including floods and droughts. It also considers estimates of future population growth, projections of water use and a host of other factors. Cape Town’s water system is a relatively sophisticated one, with six major storage reservoirs, pipelines, water treatment plants and an extensive distribution network. Its water managers, and South Africa’s overall water expertise, are among the best in the world.

The problem is that the traditional approach for building and managing water systems rests on two key assumptions. The first is that there is always more supply to be found, somewhere, to satisfy growing populations and growing water demand. The second is that the climate isn’t changing.

Neither of these assumptions is true any longer.

Many regions of the world, as in Cape Town, have reached “peak water” limits and find their traditional sources tapped out. Many rivers are dammed and diverted to the point that they no longer reach the sea. Groundwater is over pumped at rates faster than nature can replenish. And massive long-distance transfers of water from other watersheds are increasingly controversial because of high costs, environmental damages and political disagreements.

Read We Have Seen The Future of Water, And It Is Cape Town


Peter H. Gleick is a climate and water scientist, co-author of The World’s Water, and a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

Could tackling climate change help bring peace to South Sudan?

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A Turkana boy herds livestock to grazing grounds in the disputed area of the Ilemi triangle in northwestern Kenya near the borders with Ethiopia and South Sudan October 15, 2013. REUTERS/Siegfried Modola

by Adela Suliman | @adela_suliman | Thomson Reuters Foundation News
Monday, 19 February 2018 11:47 GMT

The world’s youngest nation, South Sudan, has been embroiled in war and conflict for years.

The oil-rich nation – which won independence from Sudan in 2011 – descended into civil war in 2013, with tens of thousands of people killed and a third of the population forced to flee their homes.

Recent research found that extreme weather, such as prolonged drought, has increased competition between communities over dwindling resources like water and pastures.

Although data is hard to come by, historically conflicts frequently occur soon after a flood or drought, said a report by a group of NGOs and U.N. agencies.

For example, tensions between nomadic herders and settled farmers over water wells or poor harvests can lead to unoccupied and frustrated men being lured into militias.

“Climate change has a multiplier effect on the challenges experienced in South Sudan, specifically on localised conflict,” said Michael Mangano, country director of aid agency ACTED in South Sudan.

INVESTING IN RESILIENCE
So could building resilience against climate shocks help bring peace to South Sudan?

“There is a growing momentum on investing in resilience in South Sudan,” said Nellie Kingston of Concern Worldwide, a charity that works on the UK-funded Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED) programme.

The project in the East African country set up early warning systems, weather monitoring tools, field schools to teach farmers best practices, and seed stores to preserve and exchange crop seeds in the event of climate shocks.

It also established 17 environment clubs in schools for students to discuss climate issues and plant trees, for example, with the minister of education keen to roll out such initiatives into the national curriculum, said Kingston.

An assessment of the project found that people felt more resilient to climate shocks after joining farmer groups, better managing their land and making savings, said Suzanne Philips of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

GREATER COHESION
As well as equipping communities with better tools and responses to climate threats, the project sought to bring together tribes traditionally divided by conflict.

“It’s one of those things we can’t measure, but there are groups (taking part in the projects) that are made up of three ethnicities… so just the fact that they’re meeting on a weekly basis prevents more ethnic tension,” said Mangano.

Other outcomes of the project include communities becoming more self-sufficient and relying less on international aid, said Kingston, with other villages replicating some of the successful activities.

Although fragile states face huge social and economic problems, protecting people from natural disasters can be done and should be attempted despite the practical difficulties, U.N. officials have recently said.

Conflict-torn countries may lack functioning governments, but pockets can be identified where it is possible to work with communities to reduce the risks of floods, earthquakes and other hazards, according to Robert Glasser, head of the U.N. Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.

Despite these successes and improved resilience in South Sudan the country is still highly vulnerable to climate shocks, said Kingston.

“Resilience interventions are feasible in South Sudan,” she said. “But flexibility is needed to tailor them to the local context and adjust to changing circumstances.”

[ https://news.trust.org/item/20180219114753-sw3yl ]

End of an Era

Thank you to Sr. Marie André Mitchell, SNDdeN (from the Zimbabwe-South Africa Province of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur) for sending this article and site.

Please continue to keep Zimbabwe in your prayers.


The Jesuit Institute is passionate about building bridges between faith and the broader society. Each week we offer a reflection on something topical. Feel free to reproduce or distribute but please credit the Jesuit Institute and the writer.

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The End of an Era
by Anthony Egan SJ

Robert Mugabe’s resignation on 21 November 2017 after 37 years as President of Zimbabwe is the end of an era. It is also a relief for many – perhaps most – Zimbabweans, whose country has undergone political, economic and social turmoil for so long. For many the events of the last week or so culminating in Mugabe’s peaceful deposition is a sign of hope. It will almost certainly have consequences wider afield.

The last twenty years have been tragic for Zimbabwe. Instead of improving the people’s lot, chaotic land reform, whatever it’s symbolic and social necessity, damaged the nation’s economy and reduced its agricultural output. The once-strong Zim Dollar collapsed and its replacement by the U.S. Dollar and the Bond Notes has crippled the economy and reduced the majority of citizens to poverty. Beyond that, there have been constant claims of corruption, electoral irregularities, political intimidation and increasingly authoritarian state power. As one who has visited Zimbabwe regularly since the 1980s, I have noticed over the years how behind the warmth of the Zimbabweans I met there has been an increasing sense of fear, uncertainty and even pessimism about the country’s future.

This week that changed. This is all to the good. One can only hope and pray that things will improve.

There are questions, of course, about Mugabe’s successor. Emmerson Mnangagwa has a reputation among political observers as a ‘hard man’. He was minister of State Security during the Gukurahundi massacres in the south during the 1980s. Combatting guerrilla dissidents led to well-documented atrocities. Similarly, he was implicated later by the United Nations in mineral trafficking and using the Zimbabwe Defence Force for personal gain during the country’s intervention in the civil war in the Congo. To deliver on the hope this week has generated, Mnangagwa will have to restore national confidence in democracy and introduce policies to revive the economy.

Is this possible? While cynical political observers may doubt it, the Christian vision says it is possible. At the heart of faith is metanoia – conversion of heart. But there must be the will to do it.

Looking beyond Zimbabwe, Mugabe’s deposition may have wider, perhaps unexpected, consequences. The sense that a seemingly untouchable figure can be forced to resign could have a ripple effect in countries across Africa, where once-popular leaders have overstayed their welcome.

While the blunt instruments of mass protest and ‘coups’ are not the ideal way to change governments, particularly in constitutional democracies, they may occasionally be the only way to remove folks in power past their sell-by date. The events this week may be an impetus and inspiration in some countries to encourage unpopular leaders to consider other gainful employment.

I would not be surprised, too, that, in South Africa, Mugabe’s resignation has not been watched with unease. Though there is no exact correlation (yet) between the Zimbabwean and South African situations, widespread discontent with Jacob Zuma’s government grows. This should be particularly apparent to the ruling party as its party congress approaches. Could events in Zimbabwe be the catalyst for the end of yet another era…?

[ http://www.jesuitinstitute.org.za/index.php/2017/11/23/end-of-an-era/ ]