All eyes are on Zimbabwe this month as the African nation enters the home stretch of its high-profile, if predictable, election season. Indeed, perhaps the only ‘unpredictable’ facet of the Zimbabwean polls is when, exactly, voters are slated to cast their ballots. Despite repeated promises from President Robert Mugabe and his allies to have the contest take place in June 2013, Zimbabwe’s media outlets are now variously reporting that the election will take place anywhere between July and November of this year.
The uncertainty of the actual date aside, for most observers it would appear that the poll should result in, at the very least, the nominal win of the eighty-nine-year-old familiar face of Mugabe and his polarising Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF). This is because for all the supposedly positive intentions of the recently passed constitution, ZANU-PF still has the upper hand and its members seem unwilling to concede to even the slightest loosening of their grasp on power.
(Image provided by Inkerman personnel)
A sense of anxiety permeates the air in Libya, with citizens and foreign nationals expressing unease over the Maghreb nation’s deteriorating security condition. As can be expected, Libyans remain apprehensive with regard to the ability of the government to safeguard residents following another high-profile attack in a major city. This time, however, the attack did not occur in terror-prone Benghazi. It occurred in the comparatively safer capital of Tripoli, leading worried foreign interests to reconsider whether they should maintain a presence in Libya at all.
As a massive popular protest begins in the west of Bahrain’s capital Manama on 19 April 2013, the Bahrain International Circuit Chairman Zayed Alzayani claimed that this weekend’s Grand Prix will take place in safety, despite an uptick of protest action that has greeted Formula One’s arrival in the Gulf kingdom since 12 April 2013. “I personally think it’s safe to do the race, there is no problem… We have 5% who don’t like it but the majority do–and we cater for the majority” he told reporters at the Manama circuit. Alzayani’s claims came after Bahrain riot police fired tear gas and stun grenades at protesters during the evening of 18 April 2013, after some elements of a violent protest hurled Molotov Cocktails at security lines during protests against the staging of the race. The Formula One race has become a significant event in the Bahraini uprising after it was cancelled following the first large scale protests in 2011. In the lead up to the 2012 race, protesters even threw petrol bombs at mechanics from Force India, a Formula One racing team. According to the Bahraini opposition, numerous opposition leaders have also been arrested, or detained without charges in the past week all in what they term is an attempt by the government to avoid the negative publicity that surrounded last year’s race. However, the protests have continued nonetheless and demonstrations have turned increasingly violent. All of which has increased tensions ahead of this race and cast a further negative light on a kingdom struggling to come to terms with a new future after the deaths of eight people in unrest since February 2011.
(Note: This is part two in a series that analyses the risk of kidnaps in Libya)
When undertaking an operation as ambitious as physically rooting out wayward militias in Libya, a few ‘security snags’ are expected to pop up along the way.
Indeed, as the Maghreb nation’s government-backed forces remain entrenched in their campaign to expunge armed groups in the capital under the rather unimaginatively titled “Operation Tripoli”, authorities have also simultaneously noted a rise in criminal activity, especially the hostage-taking kind. This has led to assumptions that – in addition to a rise in general reporting from an increasingly confident national police force – the growth of kidnaps as of late could also stem from the intensification of government’s ‘anti-militia’ operations. In other words, these rogue militias, angered by the perception that the world may actually be caving in around them, could be resorting to retaliatory acts of abduction in a last ditch effort to cement their power.
One adage that often comes to mind when discussing the relationship between Angola and Brazil arises from the legendary words of an old friar by the name of Gonçalo João. According to historical tradition, in 1646 João, a Jesuit missionary, announced quite simply that “there is no Brazil without Angola”. Sadly, however, João was not referencing the “special relationship” in the vein of the purported economic, security and cultural ties described between that of the British and the Americans. João’s words were largely alluding to the horrific trade of human beings, taken from local villages in what is now modern day Angola, and shipped to the South American nation during the Portuguese Empire’s ascension to the Atlantic Slave Trade at the end of the 15th century. To be sure, the abhorrent sale of slaves from Angola became so prolific that at one point, the country was exporting human beings at a rate of “10,000” per year, the vast majority of whom eventually made their way to Portugal’s Brazilian colonies.
Thankfully, in the centuries since, the world and its norms have changed. Slavery is, of course, illegal in both Lucophone nations. Neither Brazil, nor Angola is a colony of Portugal. Indeed, given the influx of Portuguese migrants to both nations, some have even joked that the opposite may be true. Despite such significant developments over the years, the general meaning of João’s statement has not withered away. In fact, by most accounts ties between Angola and Brazil appear to be stronger than ever. Today, both countries have been glowingly labelled by financial wizards as “emerging economies”, with Angola and Brazil each enjoying sustained growth amid a global downturn. Both nations have also struck major security and infrastructure deals, with Brazilian companies in particular investing billions of dollars into developing the Angolan mining sector, among other industries. The two nations are even planning to establish the “South Atlantic Cable System” (as shown above), which, if implemented would speed up data transfers by bypassing Europe altogether.
Meanwhile, in what some might describe as another bit of economic “revenge”, both countries have been buying up shares in languishing Portuguese companies, with Angola infamously purchasing the formerly government-run Banco Português de Negócios for a measly 30 million Euros (US$39 million). It is these and other financial and political manoeuvres that have led their respective leaders to remark on their nations’ “brotherly” relationship. But, as with every ‘brotherly’ relationship, there comes sibling rivalry.
The Mexican economy is on the rise. Often dubbed a “sleeping giant”, things however are starting to change for the Latin American country that has largely remained in the shadows of Brazil. As the Mexican Government have reaffirmed growth expectations of 4% in 2014 this week, the country is looking to become the new regional investment favourite. Latest international financial predictions substantiate this trend, and even place the Mexican economy at the top of Latin America league tables within a decade. However, whilst undoubtedly there is more to international depictions of Mexico as a state riven with drug wars and associated criminal activity, internal security, or rather its deficiency, continue to remain a prime concern for all operating in the country.