Some days, all Tsimamorekm Aly eats is sugary water. He’s happy if there’s a handful of rice. But with six young kids and a wife to support, he often goes without.
This is the fourth year that drought has devastated Aly’s home in southern Madagascar. Now more than one million people, or two out of five residents, of his Grand Sud region require emergency food aid in what the United Nations is calling a “climate change famine.”
“In previous years there was rain, a lot of rain. I grew sweet potatoes and I had a lot of money… I even got married because I was rich,” said Aly, 44.
“Things have changed,” he said, standing on an expanse of ochre dirt where the only green to be seen is tall, spiky cacti.
Climate change is battering the Indian Ocean island and several U.N. agencies have warned in the past few months of a “climate change famine” here.
“The situation in the south of the country is really worrying,” said Alice Rahmoun, a spokeswoman with the United Nations’ World Food Programme in Madagascar. “I visited several districts… and heard from families how the changing climate has driven them to hunger.”
Rainfall patterns in Madagascar are growing more erratic – they’ve been below average for nearly six years, said researchers at the University of California at Santa Barbara.
“In some villages, the last proper rain was three years ago, in others, eight years ago or even 10 years ago,” said Rahmoun. “Fields are bare, seeds do not sprout and there is no food.”
Temperatures in southern Africa are rising at double the global rate, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says. Cyclones, already more frequent in Madagascar than any other African country, are likely getting stronger as the earth warms, the U.S. government says.
Conflict has been a central cause of famine and hunger in countries such as Ethiopia, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen, when fighting stopped people moving to find food. But Madagascar is at peace.
“Climate change strongly impacts and strongly accentuates the famine in Madagascar,” President Andry Rajoelina said while visiting the worst-affected areas earlier this month. “Madagascar is a victim of climate change.”
The country produces less than 0.01% of global carbon dioxide emissions, the World Carbon Project says.
Half a million children are expected to be acutely malnourished in southern Madagascar, 110,000 severely so, the U.N. Children’s Fund says, causing developmental delays, disease and death.
Nutriset, a French company that produces emergency food Plumpy’Nut, opened a plant in southern Madagascar last week. It aims to annually produce 600 tonnes of therapeutic fortified food made of peanuts, sugar and milk for malnourished children.
The Malagasy government is also giving parcels of land to some families fleeing the worst-hit areas. Two hundred families received land with chickens and goats, which are more drought-resilient than cows. They were also encouraged to plant cassava, which is more drought-resilient than maize.
“It’s a natural disaster,” said Aly. “May God help us.”
Eswatini Tells Mobile Operators To Suspend Facebook Access After Protests
Mobile operators in the southern African kingdom of Eswatini have been told to suspend access to Facebook (FB.O) and its messenger app, the local unit of telecoms group MTN (MTNJ.J) said, after protests against the king flared up.
MTN Eswatini said it had implemented the directive from the country’s communications commission to suspend Facebook access with immediate effect and until further notice. It did not say what reason the commission gave for its order.
Eswatini government spokesman Sabelo Dlamini referred all questions to the communications ministry. A senior official there was not immediately available when called by Reuters seeking comment.
The Facebook suspension came as South Africa’s presidency said envoys from Southern African countries were expected to travel to Eswatini this week.
Anger against King Mswati III has been building for years. It broke out into the open during demonstrations in June and July which the local authorities quashed with tear gas and water cannon, and another round of protests erupted in recent weeks.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed the envoys to Eswatini in his capacity as chair of regional bloc SADC’s organ on defence, politics and security cooperation, Ramaphosa’s office said in a statement.
The envoys include South Africa’s deputy foreign minister, a special adviser to Ramaphosa and a former South African cabinet minister, as well as representatives of Botswana and Namibia.
Campaigners say 53-year-old Mswati III has consistently ignored calls for reforms that would nudge Eswatini, which changed its name from Swaziland in 2018, in the direction of democracy.
The king denies accusations of autocratic rule and of using public money to fund a lavish lifestyle in the impoverished nation that borders South Africa. In July he called protests against his rule “satanic”.
“The Special Envoys will be accompanied by SADC Executive Secretary Mr Elias Magosi, senior officials of the SADC Secretariat and senior officials of the South African Government,” the statement from Ramaphosa’s office read. “The envoys are expected to travel to the Kingdom this week.”
In protests in Eswatini schools last week students chanted “Mswati must fall” and “Release our MPs,” a reference to two lawmakers arrested during earlier protests. Bus drivers blocked some main roads in the city of Manzini.
Central African Republic War Crimes Suspect ‘Beat’ Prisoners, ICC Prosecutor Says
A former Central African Republic “Seleka” faction commander took part in beatings and mistreatment of prisoners suspected of supporting ousted President Francois Bozize, an International Criminal Court prosecutor said on Tuesday.
Mahamat Said Abdel Kain was detained in January and transferred to The Hague where he faces accusations of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in 2013.
Judges will decide within 60 days of the end of the hearings on Wednesday whether or not to confirm some or all of 14 charges against Said, including persecution and torture, and move the case closer to trial.
Prosecutors said Said ran two detention centres at the time of the suspected offences.
“We say the evidence overwhelmingly shows that Mr Said was in the room where it happened. He encouraged it, he facilitated it – but he also took part in beatings and mistreatment,” prosecutor Karim Khan told the judges.
The Central African Republic has been mired in violence since a coalition of mostly northern and predominantly Muslim rebels known as Seleka, or “alliance” in the Sango language, seized power in March 2013, ousting Bozize.
Their brutal rule gave rise to the opposing “anti-balaka” Christian militias, several of whose former leaders also face charges at the ICC.
Prosecutors said there was no way for Said not to have known of the mistreatment of the prisoners in one detention centre because his office was directly above the room where they were held.
“Literally standing on their heads, trampling on their dignity, stamping on their rights – he cannot plead ignorance,” Khan said.
A defence lawyer told the judges that disorder reigned in the detention camps at the time of the alleged offences and that Said was not in charge.
“In such a situation there are no responsible people,” lawyer Jennifer Naouri said.
Obasanjo Congratulates New Zambian President, Hichilema
Hichilema emerged as the new president during the general election held at the weekend.
The former president said this in a release issued by his Special Assistant on Media, Kehinde Akinyemi, on Monday.
Obasanjo commended the people of the country for keeping democracy alive, disclosing that the reports reaching him of the election were satisfactory.
The former president congratulated the new President, urging Hichilema to be magnanimous in victory.
He said, “I want to congratulate the newly elected President, Mr. Hakainde Hichilema for his victory and also I want to congratulate the outgoing President for working hard to maintain the tenets of democracy by conceding, when result is cleared that Hichilema won.
“I also congratulate the people of Zambia for keeping democracy alive. I appeal to the new President to be magnanimous in victory and the people of Zambia should maintain the dignity and peace which we are all noted for in Africa.
“Zambia must break the circle of previous President being disgraced, by inhumanly treated by succeeding President,” he said.
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