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Botswana elections – 3 notable things about the diamond-rich nation2 minutes read

About the size of France, Botswana is one of the world’s largest diamond producers.

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Botswana elections

Diamond-rich Botswana is hailed for its stability. Ahead of its general election on October 23, here is some background about the landlocked country of 2.2 million people wedged between Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Stable since 1966

Formerly a British protectorate, Botswana became an independent democracy in 1966. The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has been in power ever since. The country’s first president, Seretse Khama, died in 1980 and his deputy Ketumile Masire took over, going on to entrench democracy and development. 

Masire stepped down in 1998 and was replaced by his vice president, Festus Mogae, who oversaw strong growth during his two five-year terms. He was succeeded by Ian Khama in 2018, a former military chief and son of Botswana’s first president. Khama positioned himself as a regional leader, for example calling for the resignation of Zimbabwe’s long-ruling president Robert Mugabe.

Khama, accused by opponents of an increasingly authoritarian approach, stepped down in 2018 after the constitutional limit of 10 years in office. He handed power to his deputy Mokgweetsi Masisi.

Khama then quit the governing BDP party – which was co-founded by his father – in May 2019, citing major differences with his hand-picked successor. 

In the run-up to Wednesday’s election, Khama backed a small splinter party of BDP dissenters, and even urged voters in some constituencies to vote for the main opposition coalition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).

Running on diamonds

About the size of France, Botswana is one of the world’s largest diamond producers. The gems are its main source of income and account for more than three-quarters of total annual exports, according to the African Development Bank.

Since independence, the country has been one of the world’s fastest growing economies with business activity expanding by about five percent a year over the past decade, the World Bank said in 2018.

The economy was hit by a drop in diamond prices in 2009 and record drought in 2015, and has sought to diversify, notably through tourism. Botswana is rated Africa’s second least corrupt country, after the Seychelles, by Transparency International.

Largest elephant population

Much of Botswana is covered by the semi-arid Kalahari desert, home to the indigenous Bushmen people and rich in flora and fauna. It is the second largest desert in Africa after the Sahara. The Bushmen, also called the San, are hunter-gatherers and have been evicted from ancestral land in the Kalahari, where there are diamond deposits.

With unfenced parks and wide-open spaces, Botswana has Africa’s largest elephant population with more than 135,000 – about a third of the continent’s total.

Most of the animals are in the Chobe National Park, an important tourist draw.  In May 2019 President Masisi lifted a 2014 ban on elephant hunting however, saying their numbers needed to be controlled.

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East Africa Politics News

Malawians escape isolation center after repatriation from South Africa

The 441 Malawians were bussed home on Monday from South Africa, where they were left stranded after the country closed its borders in March to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

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Deserted isolation centre in Blantyre, Malawi. Twiter/@zodiakonline

More than 400 people have escaped from a coronavirus quarantine centre in Malawi’s second largest city, Blantyre, after complaining about its poor state.

The 441 Malawians were bussed home on Monday from South Africa, where they were left stranded after the country closed its borders in March to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

More than a dozen were staying in an isolation centre after testing positive for the virus at the border.

The rest had been quarantined at a soccer stadium, where they were awaiting further test results.

“They have all gone home on their own,” district health officer Gift Kawaladzira told AFP.

“By then, 16 were positive already. Others were waiting for lab results,” he said. “If most of them have COVID-19, then we are facing very difficult times ahead.”

Kawaladzira said his team had mobilised other district offices to track down the escapees.

“The danger is that they will be hiding from authorities and hence cannot follow the set procedures for COVID-19 prevention,” he warned.

Doreen Lemani, who worked as a domestic cleaner in South Africa, said she returned home to Malawi fleeing tough economic conditions under the lockdown, only to be met by chaos in Blantyre.

“They did not provide us with food, and the toilets and showers here are in a horrible state. How did they expect us to stay here?” asked the woman, who was among those who left the stadium.

“We had wilfully offered ourselves to be tested, but this is chaos… Now they are telling us that they can’t find our test results,” the woman told a local TV station.

Malawi has recorded just 101 coronavirus cases so far, including four deaths.

South Africa by contrast has the highest number of infections of the continent, with more than 24,000 cases and 524 fatalities to date.

“I can guarantee you that the repatriation itself caused a lot of the people themselves to get sick,” warned Gama Bandawe, a virologist at the Malawi University of Science and Technology.

“Think about all the security personnel looking after these people, the escapees and the families of people. It’s a very big danger.”

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Politics

Military prosecutors takeover probe of Burkina Faso jail deaths

Government prosecutors handed the high-profile investigation over to the military after announcing on Wednesday they found no evidence that a dozen men found dead in jail cells were shot.

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Burkina Faso sacks governors of jihadist-troubled regions
President Roch Marc Christian Kabore of Burkina Faso.

Military prosecutors in Burkina Faso have taken over investigations into the death of 12 from a total of 25 people, who were earlier arrested on suspicion of terrorism, in their cells at the Tanwalbougou gendarmerie.

Government prosecutors handed the high-profile investigation over to the military after announcing on Wednesday they found no evidence that the dozen men found dead in jail cells were shot.

Relatives of the men say they were executed by security forces in their cells at Tanwalbougou, in the east of the country, in a case that has been described as “unacceptable” by President Roch Marc Christian Kabore.

Human Rights Watch last week called for an independent investigation into the deaths, while CISC, a local group campaigning against what it says is the impunity of the security forces, said an international inquiry is required.

The Burkina Faso government said that two investigations have been launched, one judicial and the other administrative.

Prosecutors announced on May 13 that 12 of 25 people arrested on suspicion of terrorism had died in their cells at the Tanwalbougou gendarmerie.

At a press briefing on Wednesday May 27, the prosecutors claimed that they could conclude that the men did not die of gunshot wounds although there were no autopsies.

“In view of the evidence we have, the 12 people were not shot dead,” said Rasmane Bikienga, the prosecutor-general for the city of Fada N’Gourma.

The prosecutors said that other inmates did not hear gunshots, and that a medical certificate showed there were no obvious signs of bleeding or trauma.

The autopsy could not be carried out because doctors indicated that the bodies were already in a state of decay, another prosecutor said at the press briefing.

The case was being passed to military prosecutors for “further investigation if necessary”, Bikienga said.

President Kabore promised on Saturday “decisions … without hesitation” at the end of the investigations.

Local sources have told the media that most of the men who died in the jail cells were Fulani.

Burkina Faso has battled a terrorist insurgency since 2015. The conflict has provoked attacks on Fulani herders whom other communities accuse of supporting militants.

The country’s security forces, as well as local vigilante groups, have been repeatedly accused of abuses against the Fulani community in recent years.

The local human rights group CISC last week described what happened as “summary executions”.

Witnesses told the group that all of the bodies had head wounds and that their shrouds were stained with blood, CISC said.

The group had said it was trying to find out what happened to others in the jail who were arrested at the same time.

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North Africa Politics

Algeria recalls its ambassador in France for airing films on protests

Algeria’s interior ministry said films including two broadcast on Tuesday, while “seemingly spontaneous and under the pretext of freedom of expression, are in fact attacks on the Algerian people and its institutions” including the army.

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Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune

Algeria plans to “immediately” recall its ambassador from France for consultations after documentaries about the North African country’s anti-government protest movement were aired on French public television, officials said Wednesday. 

The interior ministry said the films including two broadcasts on Tuesday, while “seemingly spontaneous and under the pretext of freedom of expression, are in fact attacks on the Algerian people and its institutions” including the army.

Citing the “recurrent character” of such programmes on French public TV, it singled out two documentaries broadcast on Tuesday by France 5 and the former colonial power’s Parliamentary Channel.

Unprecedented mass protests rocked Algeria early last year to demand the departure of veteran president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, sparked by the ailing 82-year-old’s announcement that he would stand for a fifth term.

In April 2019 he resigned, and in December, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune was elected on an official turnout of less than 40 percent. Analysts say participation was considerably lower. 

Mass protests against the ruling system only halted when the novel coronavirus arrived in Algeria earlier this year.

Despite the movement suspending demonstrations since mid-March, a crackdown has continued against regime opponents and independent media.

– ‘Malicious and lasting intentions’ –

The films cited by the Algerian ministry had sparked fierce debates on social media. 

“Algeria, my love”, aired by France 5, told the story of the Hirak protest movement through the eyes of five Algerians in their 20s from across the country. 

Directed by French journalist of Algerian origin Mustapha Kessous, it broke with a number of taboos and highlighted sociocultural divisions driving the movement, triggering heated discussion on social networks.

The second film, “Algeria: the Promises of the Dawn” was broadcast on France’s Parliamentary Channel.

In its statement, the Algerian ministry cited what it said were “malicious and lasting intentions on the part of certain circles, which do not wish to see peaceful relations between Algeria and France after 58 years of independence”.

France Televisions, which owns France 5, declined to comment on the Algerian announcement on Wednesday evening.

France and Algeria have often had tense ties since Algeria won independence in 1962 after eight years of war.

In early April, the French ambassador to Algeria, Xavier Driencourt, was summoned to the foreign ministry after statements on the France 24 satellite news channel about Chinese medical aid.

Earlier in the year, Tebboune had called for “mutual respect” in Franco-Algerian relations, saying his country “will not accept any interference or tutelage” from abroad.

He was referring to statements made by French President Emmanuel Macron early on in the Hirak protest movement, calling for “a transition of reasonable duration” — remarks seen by Algiers as “interference” in its internal affairs.

In recent weeks, the Algerian government has repeatedly blamed “foreign” NGOs for influencing Algerian media outlets aiming to damage state institutions.

Last month, authorities blocked three news websites that had covered the protests.

Algeria ranks 146 out of 180 countries on RSF’s world press freedom index for 2020.

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