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June 06 2013

Mozambique: Mia Couto's 30 Years of Literature Honored with Prestigious Prize

[All links lead to pages written in Portuguese unless stated otherwise]

Mia Couto's three decades-long career in literature was acknowledged on the 27 May, 2013 when he was awarded the 25th Camões Prize in literature, worth 100,000 euros, and widely considered one of the most prestigious prize for Portuguese-speaking writers. Author of 23 books [en], among them romance novels, poems and chronicles translated into 22 languages, Mia became the second Mozambican author to win the prize, after poet José Craveirinha, who won it in 1991.

Mia entered the literary arena in 1983, with the publication of his first book of poems, Raiz de Orvalho. His first romantic novel came with Terra Sonâmbula (1992), considered one of the twelve best African books of the 20th century by the International Book Fair in Zimbabwe (2011). The work exposes Mozambique's history after the colonization process, decolonization and political independence [en], as pointed out by Pedro Puro Sasse da Silva of Rio de Janeiro Federal University, in a literary blog:

Já nas histórias de Kindzu encontramos inicialmente as previsões de seu pai sobre a independência do país fatos que poucos conheciam. Essa marginalização dos processos políticos do país revela que mesmo com os ditos revolucionários atos de descolonização, a vida do povo não mudou em nada, para eles, ser explorado por um branco ou por um negro em pouco mudava sua vida. Saindo de uma guerra para uma seguida entrada em outra o povo apesar de desconhecer as motivações, sabiam bem como defini-la, assim dizia Taímo: “A guerra é uma cobra que usa os nossos próprios dentes para nos morder.”


Percebemos, então, através dessa análise, que Terra Sonâmbula é um vivo retrato do povo moçambicano, uma descrição histórica de como a guerra acontece por trás da perspectiva da capital. Um povo que vive na dualidade de um passado rico em mitos e crenças, com um presente duro e cruel.

In Kindzu's histories we initially find his father's forecasts about the independence of his country, facts that only few knew. This marginalization of political processes of the country reveals that even with the revolutionary tales, the life of the people didn’t change in anything, for them, being exploited by a white or by a Negro didn’t change their life. A war after another, though not knowing the reasons, they knew how to define it, so said Taímo: “The war is a snake which uses our own teeth to bite us.”

We perceive, then, through this analyse, that Terra Sonâmbula is an alive portrait of Mozambican people, a historical description of how the war happens behind the capital perspective. People that live in duality of a past rich in myths and beliefs, with a hard and grim present.

Another one of Mia's books, Cada Homem é Uma Raça (1990), explores the race-perspective in Mozambican identity politics, as pointed out by Willian Conceiçao of Santa Catarina Federal University in Brasil:

Entre os mortos e vivos. O colonial e o independente. Entre raças? Cada homem é uma raça, possui algo que é próprio, todos com seus conflitos, vivenciado de formas especificas. “A pessoa é uma humanidade individual. Cada homem é uma raça, senhor polícia” [Aspas internas de Mia Couto].

Among the dead and the living. The colonial and the independent. Among races? Each man is a race, possesses something which is proper, all with their conflicts, living in specific ways. “The person is an individual humanity. Each person is a race, Mr Police” [Mia Couto's internal quotation marks].

By Luis Miguel Martins from Portug

Photo: Luis Miguel Martins/ CC-BY-SA-3.0/ via Wikimedia Commons

One of the political themes that features prominently in Mia's writing is that of Mozambican independence from Portuguese colonialism. The preface of the book Cronicando (1988), as mentioned in Sermos Galiza, helps shed light on the man himself:

Os intelectuais europeus olharam-no, ao conhecê-lo, com surpresa: era um jovem apesar de ter nome feminino (Mia), era um branco (cabelos louros, olhos claros) apesar de ser africano”, escreve Fernando Dacosta no prefacio de Cronicando, para explicar a posição do escritor no mundo, que responde à própria origem do género humano, “desobedecer aos mapas e desinventar bússolas, sua vocação é a de desordenar paisagens”, diz o escritor.

“The European intellectuals look at him with surprise: he was a young man although with a feminine name (Mia), was a white man (blonde hair, light eyes) although he is African”, writes Fernando Dacosta on the preface of Cronicando, to explain the position of the witter in the world, who answers to the origin of the human gender “disobey the maps and miss invent compasses, his vocation is to clutter the landscape”, says the writer.

Liliane Lobo, from Lusophone University in Lisbon, wrote about Mia's literary style in her blog:

A sua escrita apela o lado mais “natural” das coisas, explorando a ligação humana à terra, à natureza. As suas obras têm levado a língua portuguesa além fronteiras, enaltecendo sempre a sua estreita ligação com as tradições e cultura africanas. Mia Couto rejeita a ideia que a lusofonia seja um sentido singular, considera que existem várias lusofonias.

His writing appeals the most “natural” side of the things, exploring the human connection to earth, to nature. His works have taken the Portuguese language beyond frontiers, always exalting his straight connection to African traditions and culture. Mia Couto refuses the idea that lusophony is a singular sense; he considers that there are several Lusophonies.

In a recent presentation in Figueira da Foz, in Portugal, Mia reflected on the conception of lusophony – the group of Portuguese speaking countries – answering questions from the audience, as shown in the video below:

Mia says that:

(…) [A] certa pressa em proclamar a lusofonia assim como o nome dessa família(…) Agora há uma reação inversa que foi criada porque é preciso perceber que Moçambique tem outras línguas (…) que são suas, que são línguas maternas, que a maior parte dos moçambicanos não falam português no seu cotidiano, falam outras línguas e tem com essas línguas essa relação de amor que nós todos temos com a língua materna(…)

(…) Certain rush to proclaim the Lusophony as well as the name of this family (…) Now there is an inverse reaction that was created because there is need to perceive that Mozambique has other languages (…) which are his, which are mother tongues, that the majority of Mozambicans don't speak Portuguese regularly, they speak other languages and they have with these languages this relationship of love that we all have with our mother tongues. (…)

Born in July 5, 1955, in Beira City to Portuguese parents, Mia Couto was baptized as António Emílio Leite Couto [en]. In 1971 he went to live in Lourenço Marques, now, Maputo, capital of Mozambique. Leaving his medical studies, he opted for a journalistic career in 1974, having contributed to newspapers like A Tribuna, Notícias and Mozambique Information Agency (AIM). In 1985, Mia returned to university to graduate in biology at Eduardo Mondlane University, where he teaches currently.

May 29 2013

Mozambique's Health Care Workers Strike for Higher Pay

Francisco J. P. Chuquela, collaborator of GV's partner in Mozambique @Verdade Newspaper, reported for this article

Health professionals in Mozambique have been on strike for ten days leading to the halt of operations in many medical units throughout the country. The dispute with the government is based on demands for wage increase and standardisation, as well as the readjustment of the emergency room prices throughout the country's hospitals.

It is the second strike of the sector to take place in the country in 2013, only this time the protest of the doctors has expanded to more health professionals and has extended now for a second week.

Emotions peaked on Sunday night, May 26, 2013 when the President of Associação Médica de Moçambique, Dr. Jorge Arroz, was arrested by police under accusation of sedition (incitement of discontent or rebellion against a government). The release of Arroz a few hours later was fueled by massive popular mobilisation in front of the police station combined with the presence of mainstream media and the intervention of jurists.

Tomás Queface, a student of sociology, summarised on his blog [pt] Política e Tecnologia how Mozambicans immediately questioned on social media the reasons behind Arroz's detention and commented on the lack of freedom of expression in the country.

On Monday morning, May 27, health professionals met at the cinetheatre Gilberto Mendes, holding empty plates on their hands.

On Monday morning, May 27, health professionals met at the Cineteatro Gilberto Mendes, holding empty plates on their hands. Photo by Canal Moz.

Government's counter-information

Analysts believe that the arrest of Arroz has increased the participation [pt] of health professionals in the strike. “Reports on the percentage of participating strikers range from 90 to five percent of the medical workforce”, Aljazeera's The Stream reported on May 28.

Health professionals meet in Beira´s Central Hospital.

On May 28, a citizen reported that health professionals were meeting in Beira's Central Hospital.

Throughout the first week of the strike, as the spokesman of the Ministry of Health said that all health units had returned to normality, citizen and independent reporters stated that there were many restrictions in some of the major medical units.

Citizens and journalists in Maputo sent their reports from several hospitals and health unites: consultations were delayed, and patients were being received and screened by students, military doctors, foreigners and international organisations such as the Red Cross. Other professionals, who usually occupy positions of leadership outside the units, were performing more specialized services.

Acts of intimidation

Hospital directors tried to mobilize health professionals to work, but to no avail. An audio recording [pt] shared by the Medical Association of Mozambique on Facebook on May 21 revealed the Director of Mozambique's largest hospital threatening and intimidating healthcare professionals:

…no dia em que o Ministério da Saúde começar a usar toda a máquina que tem por trás, vocês vão chorar …

…on the day that the Ministry of Health will start using the [repression] machine that it has behind, you'll cry…

On May 22, the Police of the Republic of Mozambique (PRM) accompanied by the Rapid Intervention Force (FIR) forbid access to the Nangade garden, a public space in the capital of Mozambique, where health professionals intended to meet.

Access to Nangade park blocked by the police.

Access to Nangade park blocked by the police.

The strike goes on, what about health?

While the Ministry of Health remains unable to resolve the problem of doctors, nurses and servants, healthcare conditions are becoming more and more precarious.

In a liveblog created by @Verdade to gather citizen reports about the health sector strike, there are testimonies of lack of hygiene, medicines, and other basic needs. On the morning of May 28, a citizen reported via SMS:

Numa reunião serviço esta manhã Hospital Central #Maputo “nao ha roupa,comprensas,anestesico. Assim esta impossivel trabalhar.

In a service meeting this morning at the Central Hospital of #Maputo, “there is no clothing, bandages, anesthetics. It is impossible to work like this.”

Patients admitted with TB at the Mavalane General Hospital in the capital of the country have not received medication since the first day of the strike.

The Medical Association of Mozambique and the Commission of Health Professionals reiterated that the strike will only cease when the government stops intimidating health professionals and other staff who joined the cause, as well as when their demands are met. The health workers protest the way wage adjustments are being done, in violation of the memorandum agreed between the association and the government in January.

The government, through the national director of strategic management of human resources in the Ministry of Public Function, said that they have already reached the capacity limit in terms of availability to the salary adjustment. The Ministry of Health accused the association of not being open to dialogue.

But @Verdade has copies of official correspondence exchanged between the association and the Ministry of Health where one can read, in a letter dated of May 21, that health professionals express their openness to the continuation of the negotiations, in response to a letter from the Ministry.

May 26 2013

President of Mozambique's Medical Association Under Arrest

After a week-long strike by medical professionals in Mozambique, Dr. Jorge Arroz, the President of Associação Médica de Moçambique, was arrested on Sunday night, May 26, 2013, under accusation of “sedition” (incitement of discontent or rebellion against a government). On Twitter and Facebook, @verdademz, @canal_moz and other netizens report.

"Manu many health professionals here in the 6th police station of Maputo. Dr. Jorge Arroz is under arrest. Photo by @Verdade newspaper (used with permission)

“Many many health professionals here in the 6th Police Station of Maputo. Dr. Jorge Arroz is under arrest. Photo by @Verdade (used with permission)

May 21 2013

Mining Giant Vale Takes Mozambican Protesters to Court

Three brickmakers who had been arrested by the Mozambican Police while protesting peacefully with hundreds of people “at the gates of Brazilian mining giant Vale”, in Moatize on May 14, 2013, have been set free and are waiting for the verdict, NGO Justiça Ambiental informs denouncing acts of intimidation. The resettled population has been protesting for greater compensation. The Moatize coalfield is one of the largest unexplored mineral coal reserves in the world.

May 20 2013

Mozambique: Medical Professionals Announce Strike

Screenshot from press conference video

Screenshot from press conference video

Medical professionals in Mozambique have announced they will strike. They consider that they were “humiliated, insulted and disdained” in their last meeting with government. This current strike follows a strike earlier this year by doctors. The video announcement is available with subtitles in English, and a number of languages.

May 10 2013

Mozambique: Information Leak Raises Fears Over Land Grabs

Against a backdrop of growing concern about ‘land grabs‘ in Africa and the conversion of smallholder agriculture to large-scale commercial agriculture, a leak from a controversial economic development plan has raised alarm in Mozambique, as well as Brazil and Japan [jpn], two key donors. According to Mozambican NGO Justiça Ambiental and a number of other co-signing organizations, a leaked copy of the so-called Master Plan for the ProSAVANA program, dated March 2013, reveals the ‘land grabbing’ plans of the governments of Japan, Brazil and Mozambique.

A Mozambican farmer working the land. Photo used on CC BY-NC 2.0 license, by Flickr user Bread for the World

A Mozambican farmer. Photo used on a CC BY-NC 2.0 license, by Flickr user Bread for the World

Brazilian activist Fátima Mello explains what ProSAVANA is, and gives some important background on the project in an interview with Instituto Humanitas [pt]:

O ProSavana é um programa de cooperação e investimentos entre três governos: Brasil, Japão e Moçambique. É um programa agrícola que abrange três províncias no norte de Moçambique, numa área estimada em 14,5 milhões de hectares, onde vivem aproximadamente 5,5 milhões de camponeses que produzem, a partir de um sistema de base familiar, alimentos. O ProSavana deriva do Prodecer, um programa que foi desenvolvido no Cerrado brasileiro, em Mato Grosso, realizado pela cooperação japonesa com o Brasil nos anos 1980 e que produziu as características que conhecemos no Cerrado: gigantescos monocultivos de soja em larga escala voltados para a exportação, intenso uso de agrotóxicos, expulsão de populações tradicionais, concentração da propriedade da terra, contaminação do solo e criação de um poderio econômico do latifúndio e do agronegócio, que se traduziu em poder político…

Prosavana is an aid and investment program between three governments: Brazil, Japan, and Mozambique. It is an agricultural program that spans three provinces in the north of Mozambique, in an area estimated at 14.5 million hectares, where approximately 5.5 million people produce food as family farmers. Prosavana derives from Prodecer, a program that was developed in the Brazilian “cerrado” (grasslands), in Mato Grosso, undertaken by Japanese aid with Brazil in the 1980s and that produced the characteristics that we know in the Cerrado: gigantic monocultures of soy on a large scale for export, intense use of agrotoxins, expulsion of traditional crops, concentration of land, contamination of the soil and creation of an economic powerhouse of land-owning elites and agribusiness, which translated into political power…

The land area in question in the “Nacala Corridor” is the size of Switzerland and Austria. The agencies sponsoring this project and the government had not yet made maps available to farmers and citizens, detailing what land will be included. Farmers organizations have felt totally shut out of the shaping of this project and policy.

The National Farmers Union of Mozambique (UNAC) said last year:

We, peasant farmers, condemn the way in which the ProSavana programme was drafted and the way it is intended to be implemented in Mozambique, which has been characterised by reduced transparency and the exclusion of civil society organisations throughout the process, especially peasant organisations.

On the blog Delegoa Bay, a blogger called ABM writes [pt]:

Conversando com camponeses ao longo do Corredor de Nacala fica claro que brasileiros e japoneses estão indo às comunidades para avisar que o ProSavana está chegando. Depois afirmarão que fizeram as chamadas consultas a sociedade civil. Isso que estão fazendo não é consulta…

Conversing with family farmers along the Nacala Corridor it becomes clear that Brazilians and Japanese are going to communities to warn that ProSavana is coming. Then they will maintain that they did so-called consultations with civil society. What they are doing is not consulting.

In March, under increasing pressure the Mozambican government stated  [pt] that “dialogue [with communities] must be permanent”. Brazilian diplomats have responded to the calls for transparency by stating that small farmers will be included in the plans to develop Mozambique's Nacala Corridor. Head of the Brazilian Cooperation Agency, Fernando Abreu, was quoted last month [pt] as saying that more information was needed, also claiming that there were no plans to resettle or move farmers from their land.

The leaks contain maps, showing which districts will be targeted for large-scale farming for export, allowing civil society organizations to verify exactly which communities could be affected in order to get a better idea of the potential impact. The leaked document identifies seven “clusters” for intensive development.

Justiça Ambiental and co-signers describe what kind of agriculture the plan will bring

Some of the projects within the plan will provide large areas of land to investors. The Integrated Grain Cluster, which is planned for Majune District, Niassa Province, will be managed by one vertically integrated company that will operate nine 5,000 ha farms, within a 60,000 ha zone, to produce a rotation of maize, soybeans and sunflower, mainly for export. According to the plan, ‘the project has a high profitability and the internal rate of return was calculated at 20.3% and the payback is 9 years.’


They go on to question whether there are any benefits for the Mozambicans in the region:

It is telling that only one of the seven clusters in the Master Plan is aimed at small scale farmers and family food production. And this cluster only proposes the same old failed green revolution model of development. The Master Plan puts no real thought and energy into the needs and capacities of peasants in the Nacala Corridor.

Corporations are the big beneficiaries of this Master Plan. They will get control over land and production and they will control the trade of the foods produced, which will be exported along the roads, rail lines and Nacala port that other foreign corporations will be paid to construct with public funds from Mozambique and Japan.


The National Farmer's Union foresaw a host of problems arising from the ProSAVANA project already last year. Landlessness, social upheaval, impoverishment, corruption, water pollution and ecological imbalance due to deforestation, the Union warned, could become a reality if the project went ahead as planned.

May 01 2013

‘Africa Is A Country’ Blog Challenges West's Idea of Africa

This isn't another blog about “famine, Bono, or Barack Obama,” warns the blog Africa is a Country in its description on Facebook.

The ironically titled blog aims, among other things, to do away with the the narrative told and retold by western media that Africa is “a perpetual sob story”, Africa is a Country founder Sean Jacobs told Global Voices.

At the same time, Jacobs said, the blog is a collective of scholars, writers, artists, filmmakers, bloggers, and curators who together produce online commentary, original writing, media criticism, short videos, and photography that is working to reimagine Africa as a community.



The founder of the Africa is a Country blog, Sean Jacobs. Photo courtesy of Sean Jacobs.

We recently caught up with Jacobs, a media and international affairs scholar who currently teaches at The New School in New York, to talk about the blog.

Ndesanjo Macha (NM): Will you briefly tell us about yourself?

Sean Jacobs (SJ): I was born in Apartheid South Africa and grew up in a working class coloured township in the city. I am very much a product of segregation, anti-apartheid student movements, affirmative action and the euphoria represented by political freedom in South Africa. I went to the University of Cape Town (still very white at that time) on a scholarship and worked briefly as a journalist before I came to the US as a Fulbright Scholar in the mid-1990s [...]

I returned to South Africa at the end of my studies as I felt I would miss out on the experience of working there while democracy was still fresh. So, in 1997 I got hired by the Institute for Democracy in South Africa, an organization which played a central role in South Africa’s political transition. [...]

In 2001, I came to New York City to take up a graduate fellowship at The New School. I eventually settled in New York City and got married.

I suppose I consider myself an African immigrant in America now (I have two children who were born here) and while I keep up with specifically South African politics, I have also come to care more for how the continent and its people is represented in media here. That’s where Africa is a Country came into the picture.

NM: What is Africa is a Country?

SJ: Africa is a Country is a blog that developed over time — and I want to emphasize this process as it wasn't always clear what it would be become — into a collective of scholars, writers, artists, filmmakers, bloggers, and curators who together produce online commentary, original writing, media criticism, short videos, and photography that deliberately challenge and destabilize received wisdom about the African continent and its people in Western media (that definition includes “old media,” new social media as well as “global news media” like Al Jazeera).

Our main outlet at present is the blog, though we've collaborated with film festivals, print publications and co-hosted public events. We also count as part of our community people who read or comment on our site each day. We've sourced some blog posts and eventual regular contributors from amongst our readers.

NM: Why “Africa is a country”? Isn't Africa a continent?

SJ: Of course we don’t literally believe Africa is a Country. The title of the blog is ironic and is a reaction to old and tired images of “Africa.” As one of the core members of the collective, Neelika Jayawardane, explains in the “About” section on our Facebook page, the blog is that and more. That is, Africa is a Country is also about constructing a kind of “country.” One where the “nation” operates outside the borders of modern nation states in Africa and its continental and conceptual boundaries. So, yes, the blog announces that Africa is indeed a “country,” an imagined community whose “citizens” must reinvent the narrative and visual economy of Africa. I hope that makes sense.

NM: How did you come up with the title of the blog?

SJ: I can’t pinpoint the exact source or moment. It was definitely a mix of factors. There were countless instances of celebrities, politicians (including some who denied immediately that they had said so) who would make the mistake of talking about “the country of Africa” or be very vague of where they traveled when they visited the continent or who exactly (a country, a people, a city, etc) they were describing. In other cases, some journalists implied that Africa was a country in their writings or reporting. But there was something else I did regularly. While blogging as Leo Africanus, I started writing the words “Africa is a Country” in one or other incredulous post about some clearly misdirected reporting from and about Africa. One day I decided to just rename the blog Africa is a Country. It helped that the title attracted more people to show a sudden interest in or reading the blog or that searches for “Africa is a country” led to us.

NM: Who are other authors involved in creating content for the blog?

SJ: Currently the collective consists of about 30 core members and a fluid cast of contributors. So we’re a mix of graduate students, professors, activists, development workers, writers, journalism students, art critics, novelists, photographers, activists, filmmakers, a DJ, and a film curator, among others. [...]

NM: What kind of readers visit your site and where do most of them come from?

SJ: We now have more than 11,000 Facebook “Likes,” close to 20,000 Twitter followers, and average between 7,000-10,000 hits per day on the blog, which has had over three million total views since we made the name change. Readers come from all over, though a fast reliable internet connection helps. So most readers live, work or study in the United States and/or Europe. On the continent, most of the readers come from Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya.

NM: What are your greatest achievements with the blog so far?

SJ: That’s for our readers to decide. Again, let me drew on something Elliot and wrote down recently when asked the same question: We feel that global, by definition that’s usually Western, media — with few exceptions — have shown themselves time and again to be utterly unable to cover the continent in the depth and detail it demands, still less with any appreciation for Africa as a site of astonishing cultural and artistic production. Africa is a Country aspires to offer an international-scale corrective to this, not in terms of patronising “positive” news stories or PR-style neoliberal boosterism, but through the sustained daily work of presenting and engaging critically with the cultural and political life of Africa and its diaspora. [...]

Of course, not everything we do is hardcore: Something we are very excited about is the launch recently of a page on the blog titled “Football is a Country.” We've managed to convince some excellent writers, photographers, film makers and bloggers to commit themselves as contributors and we’re hoping to expand on it.

NM: What is most read post so far?

SJ: The most read post on the blog thus far has been by Elliot Ross on Kony 2012.

But I also want to mention a number of other excellent posts (and I am going to have to leave some posts out of this list, though that does not make them less deserving): There’s Boima Tucker’s explorations on DJ culture and Jeremy Weate's “When Kim Kardasian Came to Lagos and “419ed the 419ers”. Separately, we’ve featured a number of interviews such as Zachary Rosen’s interview with artist Toyin Odutola, Corinna Jentzch’s interview with the German photographer Gregor Zielke, Amkhelwa Mbekeni’s interview with Bongeziwe Mabandla and historian Dan Magaziner’s interview with the author of a book on Marcus Garvey.

April 24 2013

What Do Mozambique's Artists Need?

April 2013′s “Open Terrace” will focus on Artists and ‘Houses of Culture’ [pt] from the Northern province of Cabo Delgado, Mozambique. The initiative takes place every month, bringing together people from diverse backgrounds to debate public issues. On December 2012, Global Voices reported on an Open Terrace dedicated to transparency in extractive mega projects in the country.

April 03 2013

Mozambican Political Parties and the Internet

(…) there is a space that until now has been little explored by the national political forces, be it for political propaganda or electoral campaigns: the internet.

Mozambican platform Olho Cidadão (Eye of the Citizen) launched a new blog on April 2, 2013, with an analysis of the presence of political parties on the internet [pt]. Mozambique will hold municipal elections on November 20.

February 16 2013

Mozambique: Mouthwatering Zambezian cuisine

Afreaka blog [pt] pays homage to food from central Mozambique, from Zambézia Province. They write, besides spice, the secret is “lots of coconut milk, made fresh, grating coconut into hot water”. They describe five unique dishes made with coconut.

February 06 2013

Dancing to the Beat of History with Marrabenta in Mozambique

This post was first published on Afribuku [es], a blog on contemporary African culture

It is often said that Mozambicans start the year a marrabentar.” That's because every year, early February, the most representative festival of the country, the Festival of the Marrabenta, takes place. Wherever you go, you hear “teka, teka!”,  the expression used while dancing to marrabenta, which has a contagious rhythm that makes it difficult not to get carried away

But in Mozambique, talking about marrabenta music is also serious, because in every hypnotic beat, the country's colonial history and identity resonates.

The Festival of Marrabenta Music

This time, from 1 to 3 February, 2013, the famous Congolese composer and singer Sam Mangwana and other Mozambicans musicians Dilon Djindji, Radio Marrabenta, Xidimingwana, Orquesta Djambo o Cheny Wa Gune, performed at the 6th edition of this festival held in the city of Maputo and in the towns of Marracuene and Matalene.

As every year, a train with live music departed from Maputo and took musicians and audiences to the village of Marracuene for free. An hour and a half trip into the “Train of marrabenta,  people also joined the Gwaza Muthini celebration which coincides with the event.

Marrabenta Train. Photo by Litho Paulo David Sithoe on Facebook

Marrabenta Train. Photo by Litho Paulo David Sithoe on Facebook

Music of Resistance 

The Gwaza Muthini ceremony commemorates the famous battle of Marracuene which took place on February 2, 1895. In this battle, the warriors of the Gaza Empire, under the command of Ngumgunhane, resisted the Portuguese colonial army.

The men of Ngumgunhane lost the battle and this was the beginning of the end of the Empire of Gaza. In the past, a hippopotamus was hunted and its meat was distributed among the population to commemorate the event. Today, hippopotamus meat has been replaced by goat meat which is often enjoyed with a local moonshine called “canhu” – consumed while dancing to the sound of the marrabenta.

The history and evolution of the marrabenta was not smooth. It emerged in the south of Mozambique at the end of the 1930s, but it wasn't until the 1960s that it became more popular. Multiracial and multicultural policies within the Portuguese colonies in Africa, facilitated its expansion in Mozambique and in its metropolis. The arrival of the first gramophones from South Africa and the emergence of local music broadcasts also contributed to its diffusion.

El legendario Dilon Djindji durante su actuación en el Festival de la Marrabenta. Foto afribuku.

The legendary Dilon Djindji during his performance at the I Festival of the Marrabenta. Photo Sandra Quiroz | afribuku.

Music of Struggle

The Portuguese regime in Mozambique demanded that they sing and dance only Portuguese music during most of the colonial period. To defend their cultural identity, various organisations were born, such as the African Association (AA) and the associative Center of Blacks from the Province of Mozambique (CANPM), which ended up playing a fundamental role in the promotion of Mozambican culture. In this way, marrabenta became a music of struggle whose themes are inspired by the experiences of everyday life, love, social criticism and important events that took place in Mozambique.

Marrabenta en la Asociación Africana (AA). Foto del archivo personal de Elarne y Fredo Cariano.

Marrabenta at the African African Association (AA). Photo from Elarne and Fredo Cariano personal archive.

Evolution of Marrabenta 

This rhythm was first played with homemade four-string guitars made from empty cans and pieces of wood. The mixture of the magikay and zukuta rhythms from the South of the country and the assimilation of western rhythms such as the American and South African black music coming to the former Lourenço Marques (today Maputo), enriched this new genre. It had no name until 1930 but finally adopted the name of the marrabenta.

Some authors claim that the term is derived from the Portuguese verb “rebentar” which means break, in this case “break the strings” by the force when they played the guitar; other authors argue that it comes from the idea of “dance until you break” because of the energy required when it is danced, as considered the Mozambican marrabenta musician Dilon Djindji. But for a large majority the marrabenta represents the cultural expression of a people who in the words of the ethnomusicologist Luka Mucavel “it is a product of society, experiences and coexistence between various Mozambicans ethnic groups with influence from outside”.

Sam Mangwana from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, (formerly Zaire, when he was born) came to the festival for the first time this year.

Marrabenta's Festival, 2013. Poster shared on afribuku.

Marrabenta's Festival, 2013. Poster shared on afribuku.

His father was Zimbabwean and his mother was Angolan, and he grew up listening to Cuban, French, Spanish, Italian and American music. He is considered one of the main singers and promoters of the Congolese rumba and his artistic production is based on sounds from Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde and Congo. During the 1980s and 90s, Sam popularized the marrabenta themes, “Vamos para o campo (Marracuene)”, “Tio António” or “Moçambique Oyé” which are now considered classics.

It's been five years since the first edition of the Festival of the Marrabenta, thanks to the initiative of Litho Sithoe. And five years later, the festival continues through the determination and perseverance of its organizer. On February 3 the festival ended with a concert at the Cultural Center of the town of Matalane. This day is celebrated the “Day of the Mozambicans Heroes”, a national holiday that commemorates the lives of the fallen soldiers who fought bravely for the country's independence in 1975. The finishing touch to end a weekend breathing, living and feeling the marrabenta.

No one can predict the future of the marrabenta nor can they decipher how the style will evolve in modern times, if it will take paths towards more commercial sound. But what is clear is that in this 6th edition, entertainment was guaranteed.

January 30 2013

Tens of Thousands Affected by Heavy Rains in Mozambique

[All links lead to Portuguese language pages except when otherwise noted.]

In Mozambique, the rains that have been falling since early January devastated populations in the country's center and south. Victims are finding refuge in one of six official shelters, and those most vulnerable - children, women, the elderly and the sick - are facing even greater risks. The districts most affected by the rains are Chókwè and Guijá as well as the city of Xai-Xai in the Gaza province in southern Mozambique.

An article published on Jornal @Verdade on January 23 reports that more than 55,000 residents from high-risk areas have been evacuated and relocated to safer areas. Nearly 5,000 people have been relocated to the Chibuto district. The total number of people affected in the Gaza province is 65,000. However, this number could easily reach 100,000 with the water levels continuing to rise in Gaza's coastal capital Xai-Xai.

The floods have interrupted transportation along the main road linking the country's north and south.

Floods in Chókwè. Photo by Jornal @Verdade

Floods in Chókwè. Photo by Jornal @Verdade

One Facebook comment on the article written by Alexandra Cabral states:

Isto é simplesmente assustador. Ajudem esta população, por favor! Uma vez na vida, façam algo sem ser para receber contrapartidas. Mostrem que ainda existe sensibilidade e união no povo moçambicano.

This is simply terrifying. Help the population, please! For once in your lives do something without expecting recompense. Show that the Mozambican people are still united and sensitive [to the plights of others].

Another reader, Abel Fumo, appeals to the Mozambican government:

Sabemos que se trata duma situaçao de natureza mas o governo tem que começar a perceber que chegou o momento de redobrar o esforço em ajudas com género alimentício tendo em conta que se trata das mesmas pessoas que vão às urnas para votar.

We know this is a natural disaster, but the government must realize that the time has come to redouble efforts and help distribute foodstuffs, remembering that we are talking about the same people who will [ultimately] be going to the voting booths.

However, contrary to other readers, one citizen reporter who did not wish to be identified expressed his indignation through the Jornal @Verdade Facebook page:

Mas então não aprendemos nada com as cheias do ano 2000? Estes aquedutos na EN1 [Estrada Nacional número 1] quando foram reabilitados porquê não foram feitos para aguentar nível igual ou superior ao daquelas cheias? Por cada 1USD que se gasta em prevenção poupavam-se 7 USD em emergência!

Did we not learn anything from the floods in 2000? When these aqueducts along EN1 [national highway 1] were repaired, why were they not designed to handle a water level equal to or greater than those floods? For every one dollar spent on prevention, we would have saved seven dollars on emergency expenses!

“Victims and damages caused by the floods continue to increase” 

As of last Friday (25), the National Institute for Disaster Management (INGC) had identified more than 70,000 people directly affected by the floods, including 45 deaths, 3,402 homes partially destroyed, 2,231 homes completely destroyed and 698 homes flooded.

The waters have flooded out 92 classrooms, which means 1,346 students are unable to attend their classes.

Flooding in the city of Xai-Xai, capital of the Gaza province in southern Mozambique. Photo by Jornal @Verdade

Flooding in the city of Xai-Xai, capital of the Gaza province in southern Mozambique. Photo by Jornal @Verdade

Vandalism and pillaging

Some victims have reported cases to Jornal @Verdade that reveal “a deep sadness as a result of the collected losses from the floods on the one hand and, on the other hand, the vandalism, in part pursued by hungry flood victims who have refused to relocate to shelters.”

Some families displaced by the floods caused by the rising Limpopo river in the Chókwè district complained of pillaging by persons acting in bad faith. Business owners claim that these criminals, some wielding sharp objects, have ransacked their warehouses and even threatened them.

One of the victims of the floods in southern Mozambique, Suleimane Cassamo, a resident of neighborhood 1 in Chókwè city, stated that people have organized themselves into large groups and have invaded random houses and warehouses while their owners have sought refuge in safer places:

Saqueiaram electrodomésticos e produtos alimentares como arroz, óleo e farinha de milho.

They have ransacked domestic appliances and food products like rice, cooking oil and corn flour.

In the meantime, civil society has been mobilizing to provide support. The organization Makobo has launched a campaign [en] to raise donations and began distributing proceeds on Monday (January 28) to the flood victims:

vamos entregar a CHIAQUELANE, Distrito do Chókwè, as primeiras doações que recebemos. Obrigado a todos pelo apoio, generosidade e solidariedade…Bem hajam. Estamos a contar enviar carregamentos regulares para a Macia e Xai-Xai, dependendo do que conseguirmos recolher nos próximos dias.

Our first donations will go to CHIAQUELANE in the Chókwè district. Thank you all for your support, generosity and solidarity; thank you sincerely. We are hoping to send regular shipments to Macia and Xai-Xai, depending on what we manage to raise over the coming days.

Citizen mobilization in support of flood victims.

S.O.S. Chókwè“: Citizen mobilization in support of flood victims. Image by Makobo on Facebook.

January 27 2013

Mozambique: Citizen mobilization to help flood victims

After heavy rains and flooding in southern Mozambique that has displaced tens of thousands and killed scores of people, Mozambican civil society group Makobo has started a solidarity campaign called “S.O.S. Chókwè” to collect humanitarian supplies to deliver to victims.

December 31 2012

From Indigenous Protests to Online Preaching, Portuguese Language Countries in 2012

Every year, as the last days of the calendar approach, we select a few glimpses of citizen media from the action and imagination of the Portuguese-speaking online world.

Mainstream media often fails to provide broader and deeper coverage of social, cultural, political and environmental issues occurring in any of the eight lusophone countries. But citizen media from this vast linguistic region that spreads across the globe, has been there to fill some of the gaps and to fuel public awareness.

Such has been the case of the coverage of development policies adopted by the Brazilian government, and the consequences that directly affected river-dwellers, ‘caboclos' and indigenous communities across the country, and particularly in the Amazon. The construction of the Belo Monte Dam in the Xingu river, has perhaps become one of the strongest causes at the national level and beyond borders. In October, Sany Kalapalo, a young indigenous and a Xingu activist, told us how she makes use of the Internet as a tool to disclose indigenous culture and to mobilize people towards her campaign to protect the Volta Grande do Xingu region in the state of Pará.

In November, the Cry of Resistance of the Guarani Kaiowá quickly spread from the village of Pyelito Key/Mbarakay, in the town of Iguatemi, State of Mato Grosso do Sul, to a worldwide wave of protests in solidarity with the indigenous rights for their lands.

In November, the Cry of Resistance of the Guarani Kaiowá triggered a worldwide wave of protests in solidarity with the Indigenous Guarani-Kaiowá and their cause.

Photo of 5,000 crosses planted in Brasilia. Image from the Facebook page of Itiban Comic Shop

Throughout the year, a series of articles on Brazilian migration has taken us in journeys we don't embark upon through mainstream media.

From a “Dekasegibridge-blogger in Japan for the Brazilian community after the earthquake, to the 93 year-old Syrian migrant living in the state of São Paulo, passing through the history of the “Brazilebanese“, or Brazilians from Lebanon, and other stories. Brazilian immigration policy itself faces new challenges. In December, immigrant associations in Sao Paulo organized a rally demanding more rights with regard to the law of the country. Brazilian emigration too has been under debate, particularly through the lens of how Brazilian women are seen abroad, after highly criticized statements from the President of the Portuguese Bar Association at the end of the year, who said that what Brazil exports the most to Portugal is prostitutes.

To calm down the waters surrounding that debate, and bringing a bit of music to the mix, something that Brazilians have also exported this year was Michel Telo's hit ‘Oh if I Catch You' song, whose official video on YouTube has already reached an impressive 470 million visits. Although Telo's major worldwide success didn't reach the numbers of Gangnam style, it did indeed spark a global phenomenon of “Telobalization” at the beginning of the year, with the appropriation of the song for new versions in dozens of different languages. It also attracted some critics due to the arguable quality of Telo's work, and whether or not it should represent Brazilian culture abroad.

On culture and literacy, we highlight the Bicicloteca, a bicycle that carries a small library and free solar-powered internet access to the homeless of the city of São Paulo, and a creative writing competition promoted by the young Cape Verdean journalist Odair Varela on his blog over the course of seven weeks.

Platforms for civic participation

Interesting initiatives for civic participation that bridge the offline and the online worlds arose in Mozambique in 2012.

Up North, in Cabo Delgado, an "open terrace" hosts monthly public debates - which are transcribed live to Facebook - allowing for the discussion and dissemination of important issues such as the missing transparency in the extractive mega projects in the country.

In the Northern region of Mozambique, in Cabo Delgado, an “open terrace” hosts monthly public debates - which are transcribed live to Facebook - allowing for the discussion and dissemination of important issues such as the missing transparency in the extractive mega projects in the country. Photo by Terraço Aberto (Public Debate in Cabo Delgado) on Facebook

The People's Wall of Maputo, an authentic ”offline Facebook wall” in the extensive outer wall of @Verdade newspaper's building, allows for any citizen to express his or her complaints in a public and open way. Messages are later transcribed to @Verdade's media outlets, such as their print newspaper but also Facebook page and website.

A local diving school in Tofo, Bitonga Divers, has been raising awareness on the need to defend marine life against overfishing at one of Mozambique's most important tourist beaches.

Whereas in Guinea Bissau, where there is a huge Internet accessibility gap, a digital inclusion project called CENATIC - a computer center featured by Rising Voices in April - unfortunately had to shut down at the end of the year due to the high costs to support it. CENATIC was launched by a local NGO and aimed at providing more affordable access and support to individuals and organizations interested in exploring how a better connection can benefit their work.

From Sao Tome and Principe, STP Radio (Somos Todos Primos / We Are All Cousins)

In December Global Voices interviewed STP Radio (Somos Todos Primos / We Are All Cousins), from Sao Tome and Principe, an online community radio that plays an important role uniting the diaspora.

The future awaits

In the political arenas, 2012 was a year of presidential and parliamentary elections in East Timor, municipal elections in Brazil and local elections in Cape Verde. In Angola, Eduardo dos Santos was re-elected after 33 years in power. The country's complex path of development through the lens of citizen media is summarized in a separate post, Year of Change in Angola, But Everything Stays the Same.

By the end of November, São Tomé and Principe plunged into a political crisis, and in Guinea Bissau another military coup d'etat toppled the government in April 2012. A post from October reads:

While the international institutions express “concern” and conduct meetings, the people of Guinea-Bissau have little outlet for their fears and frustrations.

In Portugal, there were plenty of protests and two general strikes against the austerity measures in the European economic crisis scenario which develops into harder life conditions for the general population. The most participated demonstration took place in September under the motto “Screw Troika! We Want Our Lives”.

Among the multiplicity of conventional uses of digital platforms for activism, one of the most curious characters that caught our attention early in the year is in fact a 75 year old priest and writer called Mário Pais de Oliveira. He religiously uses social networks to share his very particular - and disruptive - thoughts on current events, and has hundreds of videos on Youtube and thousands of friends on Facebook. We finish this roundup of the year with a simple quote from one of his subversive homilies. Whatever 2013 brings:

We must come up with new ways to transform society

December 21 2012

Transparency in Extractive Mega Projects in Mozambique

With the discovery [pt] of further reserves of hydrocarbons and mineral resources in Mozambique, the country has seen its land become one of the most attractive on the African continent for large international investors. Although the country's economy is growing at a rate of 7% per year, Mozambique maintains one of the lowest positions [pt] in the UN Human Development Index. How can more opportunities be created for the country's citizens to get closer to, participate in and benefit from the development boom in Mozambique?

The group Terraço Aberto (Open Terrace) [pt], created by the Swiss Association for International Cooperation, Helvetas, organises monthly popular assemblies for “reflective, critical and open debate” about the country's socio-economic development, especially in the Northern region, in Cabo Delgado. The 11th meeting which took place in November focused specifically on the subject of “Transparency in (Mega-)Projects for Resource Extraction” [pt]:

A transparência devia existir em todas as fases dos Megaprojectos para facilitar a sua aceitação e o encaixamento harmonioso na sociedade.
Como é que as informações são divulgadas? São suficientes?
O facto de Moçambique fazer parte da “Iniciativa de Transparência na Indústria Extractiva” [ITIE] é conhecido? Sabemos de que se trata e quais são os mecanismos de controlo?
Quais são os benefícios da transparência a todos os níveis?
Somos apenas espectadores ou sabemos o que se passa nos vários níveis e componentes dos (Mega-) Projectos?

Transparency must exist in all phases of the mega projects in order to facilitate their acceptance and harmonious embedding into society.
How is the information made public? Is sufficient information given?
Is the fact that Mozambique forms part of the “Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative” (EITI) known?
Do we know what the initiative is about and what the control mechanisms are?
What are the benefits of transparency at all levels?
Are we just spectators or do we know what is happening at the various levels and components of the (Mega) Projects?

Photo by Terraço Aberto (Public Debate in Cabo Delgado) on Facebook

Photo by Terraço Aberto (Public Debate in Cabo Delgado) on Facebook

The presentations made at the opening of the session by the Centre for Public Integrity (CIP) [pt] - about the framing of Mozambique in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) -, by the Catholic University of Mozambique (UCM) [pt] - about the contribution of the universities towards greater transparency in the mega projects -, and by the thematic group Management of Natural Resources and the Environment [pt] were shared on Terraço Aberto's [pt] Facebook page.

The contributions made by citizens present during the session were also transcribed for the Facebook page. The questions raised tackled the necessity for the training [pt] and education [pt] of the community, the creation of networks [pt], the social responsibility [pt] of the companies and the way in which the resettlement and compensation [pt] of the population has been carried out, the environmental impact [pt] of the works, the lack of equipment [pt], conflicts of interest [pt], and also the lack of information about the charges and taxes paid by the prospecting companies.

On this last point, Dionísio Nambora from the CIP, began by deploring [pt] the lack of information about the multinational ENI, later adding:

Outras empresas tenho informação que pagam por volta de um milhão de dolares. (…) Olhando para a Kemar por exemplo, tem isenções fiscais para 10 anos, impostos fiscais reduzidos foram e apenas paga 3%, tem isenção no IVA, e outras taxas que tem impactos sérios sobre o ponto de vista de comprimento de acções fiscais. Depois de 10 anos não haverá algum impacto do aparecimento da Kemar.

I have information that other companies pay around a million dollars. (…) Looking at Kemar for example, they have tax exemption for 10 years, their fiscal taxes were reduced and they barely pay 3%, they are exempt from VAT and other taxes which have a serious impact from the point of view of the performance of fiscal shares. After 10 years there will be no impact on the emergence of Kemar.

António Macanis, director of the Programme for Decentralised Finance in Cabo Delgado, questioned how it could be guaranteed that the social funds channelled to the National Institute for Petroleum would benefit local populations, and added [pt]:

temos tantas universidades na Provincia de Cabo Delgado. Porque é que estas náo podem fazer modulos pequenos para poder capacitar as pessoas que estão naquelas zonas, como pequenos empresários para que possam tomar proveito.

we have so many universities in the Province of Cabo Delgado. Why don't they create short modules in order to train the people living in these areas, such as small businesspeople so that they can take advantage of them.

To which the representative of the UCM [pt] replied:

Está comprovado que a maior parte dos países que tem os megaprojectos de Industria Extractiva que o rácio de empregabilidade é menor. Como universidade perguntamos se empregam poucas pessoas, destas quantas são moçambicanas?

It is proven that the majority of the countries which host mega projects run by the Extractive Industry are those where the ratio of employability is lower. As a university, we ask if they employ few people, how many of these people are Mozambican?

Ersílo Zacarias, television presenter, says that [pt] “in the areas where the resources are located, the population is getting poorer and poorer”:

Por exemplo em Tete as pessoas estão a sofrer porque foram tiradas das suas zonas onde tinham riqueza para outras zonas onde não têm o que tinham.

O custo de vida nesses lugares aumenta e a população local continua na miséria. Em Téte encontramos Brasileiros a fazer limpeza enquanto a população local continua mais pobre. Onde está o Governo para fiscalizar isso?

Recentemente em Montepuez, Namanhumbir deparei-me com policia a disparar contra pessoas, que se dizem ser garimpeiros ilegais. Tudo bem, mas nem este polícia conhece quem é o dono desta terra em que vai baleando os nativos.

For example in Tete, people are suffering because they were removed from the areas where they had wealth to other areas where they do not have what they had before.

The cost of living in these places increases and the local population continues in poverty. In Tete we find Brazilians cleaning while the local population gets poorer. Where is the Government to control this?

Recently in Montepuez, Namanhumbir I came across a policeman shooting at people, who it was said were illegal prospectors. Ok, but this policeman doesn't know who owns the land where he's shooting at the natives.

Meanwhile, for Ismael, an economist, the mega projects also have a positive impact [pt]:

Olhemos Pemba em 2005 e vejam Pemba em 2012. Algumas despesas destas empresas e seus trabalhadores criam um impacto indirecto. Já há pessoas que compraram motas e outros bens que não era notável antes. (…) Por exemplo fala-se da terra. Quem está a vender a terra aqui. somos nós os Moçambicanos. Só que mais tarde reclamamos que não temos terra ora isto mais aquilo. A iniciativa dos petróleos, dos grandes negócios é bem vinda mas cabe a nós seguir o ritmo de desenvolvimento.

Look at Pemba in 2005 and look at Pemba in 2012. Some of the expenditure of these companies and their employees has an indirect impact. There are already people who have bought motorcycles and other goods which weren't notable before. (…) For example, let's think about land. Those who are selling land here are we Mozambicans. It is only later on that we complain that we don't have land and this, that and the other…. The initative of the oil companies, of the large businesses is welcome but we must keep up with the rhythm of development.

Alberto Domingos, UP Montepuez, suggests [pt] that more must be done in terms of social responsability, with the creation of offices for District Services of Economic Activities:

Se por exemplo se impusesse como condição que cada uma destas empresas pudesse construir uma Escola, Estradas, portos, um hospital ou uma outra infraestrutura o benefício seria mais sentido pela população local.

If for example the condition could be imposed that each of these companies should build a school, roads, ports, a hospital or some other infrastructure, the benefit would be felt more greatly by the local population.

Photo from the 6th Terraço Aberto dedicated to the topic "Early Marriages: Tradition, Convenience or Crime?" Photo by Terraço Aberto (Public Debate in Cabo Delgado) on Facebook.

Photo by Terraço Aberto (Public Debate in Cabo Delgado) on Facebook.

On a final note, a participant in the session who was not identified, questioned [pt] the lack of debate and information, both from the media and politicians - “who is responsible for controlling the activities of the mining companies and of the other mega projects which are being undertaken?” Public debates such as the ones provided by Terraço Aberto point without a doubt to new responses [pt]:

É possível atingir um nível em que a sociedade civil é a essência de governação participativa impulsionada pela integração com o governo e o sector privado. Tudo isso, por uma comunidade transparente e inclusiva.

It is possible to reach a point at which civil society is the essence of participative governance driven by integration with the government and the private sector. All this, for a transparent and inclusive community.

Another participant, Jorge Tadeu, suggested [pt] that the debate should not end when the terrace closed, and that more citizens should take up the commitment [pt] of the young lady Lucia Jofrice, inspired by the public debate and its participants:

a lista é enorme e inclui entre outras entidades publicas e privadas, sociedade civil, a mim propria e a ti que nao estamos a exercer a cidadania na plenitude apesar de conhecermos e termos as ferramentas necessárias.

the list is long and includes, amongst others, public and private entities, civil society, the me and the you who are not fully exercising our citizenship despite knowing about and having the necessary tools.

November 28 2012

Mozambican Newspaper Wins Innovation Grant to Develop a “Citizen Desk”

Global Voices partner in Mozambique, @Verdade newspaper, is one of the winners of the African News Innovation Challenge, ICFJ announced today, November 28, 2012. The innovation grant will be used to implement a “Citizen Desk” in partnership with Sourcefabric: “a tool that allows news organisations to create a mobile-optimised platform for aggregating, verifying, publishing and rewarding citizen journalism”.

November 25 2012

Widespread Elephant Poaching in Mozambique Reserve Uncovered

A news report published by the newspaper @Verdade [pt] at the end of October 2012, unmasks illegal hunting of elephants in the Mareja Reserve, in the Northern region of Mozambique, in Cabo Delgado. According to the article, the “massacre” is perpetrated by groups of “sophisticatedly armed” poachers and has taken on “gigantic proportions”:

Todas as semanas, pelo menos, dois animais são abatidos, dos quais são retiradas as pontas de marfim, que são posteriormente vendidas no mercado negro. A batalha acontece aos olhos das autoridades governamentais e policiais locais que, por conforto e cumplicidade, não agem.

Every week at least two animals are shot dead, from whom ivory tips are extracted, which are then sold on the black market. The battle takes place in the eyes of government officials and local police who, for comfort and complicity, do not act.

Noise of gunshots is frequently heard and then helicopters or aircrafts are seen flying over the reserve. These serve to load the ivory taken from the animals in danger of extinction, and to facilitate the trafficking of a product that “reaches exorbitant prices on the black market”, and is exported to Asian countries like China, North Korea, Thailand and the Philippines.

Elephant at the Natural Reserve of Maputo. Photo by Leandro's World Tour on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Elephant at the Natural Reserve of Maputo. Photo by Leandro's World Tour on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

A comment [pt] left by Conor Christie through Facebook adds:

Signpost of the elephant reserve in Maputo. Photo by Leandro's World Tour on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Signpost of the elephant reserve in Maputo. Photo by Leandro's World Tour on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Trabalhei um pouco na coutada 4 na provincia de Manica e quando la, fomos avisados que os caçadores vêm das zonas da Beira e vêm BEM EQUIPADOS. Nós tinhamos o equivalente dos guardas das Quirimbas, e fomos avisados para nao confrontar os elementos. As pessoas que tem [acesso] a esse tipo de armamentos não são os camponeses. Quando lá, sabiamos que [caçadores] furtivos alugavam AK47 (AKM) do comando do Save. Compravamos balas por mil Met [$33 USD] cada, indicando que o [acesso] às armas é fácil. Na minha opinião, as pessoas atrás dessas mortes nas Quirimbas sao pessoas com patencia [sic].

I worked for a while at the 4th warren in the Manica province, and we were warned that the hunters come from the Beira region and they come WELL EQUIPPED. We had the equivalent of what the guards of Quirimbas had, and were told not to confront them. People who have access to that kind of weaponry are not peasants. While we were there, we knew that poachers rented AK47 (AKM) from the Save's command. We bought bullets for one thousand Meticais [$33 USD] each, which indicates that access to arms is easy. In my opinion, people behind those deaths in Quirimbas are people with patency [sic].

Another reader of the newspaper, Kita Chilaule, expressed her indignation [pt]:

Nao acredito que nao hajam formas de travar estes cacadores furtivos. Penso que eles nao sao um numero superior aos guardas mas sim tem a proteccao do governo local ate pork esta claro que existe aqui uma cumplicidade e currupcao. o lamentavel e a destruicao do patrimonio do ecoturismo desta zona.

I can't believe there aren't any ways to stop these poachers. I think they are not a bigger number than the guards but yes they have the protection of the local government even because it is clear there is complicity and corruption here. The destruction of eco-tourism heritage in this area is regrettable.

And she continues [pt]:

Esses caçadores a maioria sao estrangeiros nao podem ter poder de accao mais que os Nacionais. Peco a quem e de direito pra travar esta pratica degradante de fauna bravia.

Those hunters, the majority are foreigners [and] cannot have more power of action than the Nationals. I ask whoever owns the rights to stop this practice of wildlife degradation.

Included in the Quirimbas National Park [pt], which occupies an approximate area of 7,506 square kilometres, Mareja's Reserve is surveilled by a group of 10 forest guards precariously equiped to face poaching. On the website of the Associação de Camponeses de Mareja (Mareja's Peasants Association) there is an ongoing awareness and fundraising campaign to strengthen the work of elephant protection.

[The video above was made by Dominik Beissel; more footage of elephants in their natural habitat can be seen here.]

Following the news published by @Verdade, an online petition [pt] was launched on Avaaz:

solicita-se a atenção do mundo que preza a sustentabilidade ecológica e a vida nas florestas, assim como do GOVERNO DE MOÇAMBIQUE, para que providências sejam tomadas de forma a acabar com o extermínio dos elefantes em Moçambique.

We seek the attention of a world that values ecological sustainability and life in the forests, as well as the GOVERNMENT OF MOZAMBIQUE so that measures are taken to stop the killing of elephants in Mozambique.

“Man-Elephant Conflict”

Since 2006 the author of the blog Forever Pemba, Jaime Luis, has reported [pt] on conflicts concerning wildlife, especially elephants, in that region:

Trophy for the extermination of elephants and wild animals, displayed in a hotel in the city of Pemba - Cabo Delgado. Photo Blog Forever Pemba

Trophy for the extermination of elephants and wild animals, displayed in a hotel in the city of Pemba - Cabo Delgado. Photo Blog Forever Pemba (used with permission)

Nos últimos tempos, os animais, principalmente elefantes, matam pessoas, criando insegurança nas comunidades, assim como se lhes acusa de fomentarem, com macacos e porcos selvagens, a fome, ao destruírem parcial ou completamente as culturas.

In recent times, the animals, especially elephants, are killing people, creating insecurity within communities, as well as being accused of fomenting - together with monkeys and wild pigs -, hunger, due to partially or completely destroying crops.

Criticizing the implementation [pt] of some of the “stagnation measures” of the “destruction” caused by the animals, promoted by local authorities, such as the training of community hunters, Luis comments on a news story [pt] published by the Notícias newspaper in 2007:

Em resumo e lendo o texto, entende-se que, as autoridades responsáveis em Cabo Delgado, depois de apresentarem os elefantes e outros animais como inimigos perigosos para o ser humano, agirão, como afirmam com um tom beatificante, quase piedoso, para não dizer cínico.

To sum up upon reading the text, one understands that the responsible authorities in Cabo Delgado, after presenting the elephants and other animals as dangerous enemies to human beings, will act as they say with a beatific tone, almost godly, not to say cynical

The website of WWF-Mozambique indicates [pt] that in 1999 the National Directorate of Forests and Wildlife from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development published the National Strategy of Elephant Management in Mozambique, with the definition of targets for the conservation of a population of around 18,000 african elephants living in the country. However, the execution of the convention, according to a report from September 2012, proves to be deficient [pt].

November 23 2012

Derrière la raison humanitaire

A-t-on le droit de « s'ingérer » ? Chez qui, pour quelles raisons, et pour faire quoi ? Qu'est-ce précisément que ce « droit » ? La Guerre au nom de l'humanité , du juriste et philosophe Jean-Baptiste Jeangène Vilmer, analyse précisément cette notion qui a servi de fondement idéologique aux opérations (...) / Guatemala, Irak, Kosovo, Libye, Action humanitaire, Conflit, Droit international, Bosnie-Herzégovine, Mozambique, Guerre de Bosnie-Herzégovine 1992-1995, Guerre civile - 2012/11

September 04 2012

Mozambique: A Guide to Mozambique

This a guide to Mozambique from Bankelele blog:

Language: Portuguese is the official language of communication in Mozambique, and you will have no choice but to learn a bit of it. The average person you meet will speak little English, and probably not fluently. All communication and signage is in Portuguese for the most part, and there are no English newspapers. So when you visit Mozambique, don’t be one of those tourists who doesn’t care to learn a word and expects everyone else to communicate to them in English.

August 31 2012

Portuguese, a Global Language?

A community page on Facebook, Língua Portuguesa: Uma Língua Global? (Portuguese Language: A Global Language?) [pt], provides a diversity of materials to promote the debate about the expansion of Portuguese language and its consequences. Several critical issues on the policies of this language of around 200 million speakers are addressed, such as minority languages, multilinguism and linguistic colonialism.

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