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eagleoftheninth The Wanderer from the Seven Rivers Relationship Status: With my statistically significant other
The Wanderer
Jan 30th 2021 at 7:22:16 PM

*pops back in*

Anyone else wants to turn this into a general-purpose sub-Saharan Africa thread? Since we don't currently cover that many topics, anyway.

Under an atomic sky | Art blog (WIP)
somerandomdude from Dark side of the moon Relationship Status: How YOU doin'?
Jan 31st 2021 at 10:12:18 AM

I see no reason not to.

ok boomer
FFShinra Beware the Crazy Man. from Ivalice, apparently Relationship Status: Too sexy for my shirt
Beware the Crazy Man.
Jan 31st 2021 at 7:06:58 PM

I dunno why it should. East Africa has enough news on its own to warrant its own thread seperate from west and south Africa.

Final Fantasy, Foreign Policy, and Bollywood. Helluva combo, that...
TheWildWestPyro Relationship Status: Healthy, deeply-felt respect for this here Shotgun
Jan 31st 2021 at 7:20:55 PM

I agree with a general Sub-Saharan Africa Thread.

AlleyOop Relationship Status: GAR for Archer
Jan 31st 2021 at 10:15:22 PM

Agreed, and very surprised we don't have one yet.

FFShinra Beware the Crazy Man. from Ivalice, apparently Relationship Status: Too sexy for my shirt
Beware the Crazy Man.
Feb 1st 2021 at 6:14:02 AM

Because the news tends to focus on one of three regions and when it does, all the news is from the region in question. West Africa, South Africa, and East Africa all have their own dynamics (much like North Africa does) to be worth having their own threads.

Final Fantasy, Foreign Policy, and Bollywood. Helluva combo, that...
Silasw A procrastination in of itself from a handcart heading to Hell Relationship Status: And they all lived happily ever after <3
A procrastination in of itself
Feb 1st 2021 at 6:29:57 AM

Yeah if there’s news out of a region that doesn’t have its own thread we can just make one. I don’t see a need to convert an existing thread.

"And the Bunny nails it!" ~ Gabrael "If the UN can get through a day without everyone strangling everyone else so can we." ~ Cyran
eagleoftheninth The Wanderer from the Seven Rivers Relationship Status: With my statistically significant other
The Wanderer
Feb 16th 2021 at 7:12:09 AM

Ancient monastery ‘looted and bombed’ in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia’s most famous monastery has been bombed and looted of its ancient treasures according to reports emerging from the north of the country where fighting has left tens of thousands of people at risk of starvation.

Aid organisations warned they are “preparing for the worst” after four months of conflict between state forces and regional fighters in Tigray that has killed thousands amid reports of multiple massacres. Authorities in the capital have confirmed the rapes of scores of women and girls.

International experts have also raised the alarm over reports of “cultural cleansing” in the heritage-rich region with thefts and destruction of centuries-old artefacts at historically significant sites. In one recent alleged incident, troops from neighbouring Eritrea, which is backing government forces, ransacked manuscripts from the remains of the remote sixth-century Debre Damo monastery after clambering 80ft up a cliff to reach it.

Other buildings on the flat-topped mountain that were also “completely destroyed” included the monks’ ancient dwellings and the earliest existing church in Ethiopia that is still in its original style, according to the Europe External Programme with Africa.

Attacks have also been reported in recent months at the seventh century mosque of Negash, one of Africa’s oldest, and the Church of St Mary of Zion, which many Ethiopian Christians believe houses the Ark of the Covenant.

Specialists have warned that Tigray’s stolen gems could be spirited out of the country and sold to collectors. Video taken by Belgian journalists reporting on the conflict apparently showed an Eritrean tank loaded with plunder.

Alessandro Bausi, an expert in Ethiopic texts and manuscripts at Hamburg University, said he had heard from multiple sources that key sites were being targeted and “irreplaceable” artefacts destroyed or pillaged.

Mary’s Meals, a Scottish-based charity working in Tigray, said that millions of people were at imminent risk of starvation and lacked access to proper sanitation or medical care.

It said: “The region’s capital, Mekelle, is being overwhelmed by displaced and traumatised people arriving every day. Many are unaccompanied children who have lost their parents.”

Fabled ark could be among ancient treasures in danger in Ethiopia’s deadly war.

It has been hidden from view for thousands of years, and its whereabouts never proved. But if the Ark of the Covenant indeed rests in a chapel in northern Ethiopia, this extraordinary religious treasure could be at grave risk from fighting in the area.

The Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion, which reputedly houses the ark – a casket of gilded wood containing stone tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments, according to the Bible – was the scene of a recent massacre of 750 people, reports filtering out of the country say.

International experts have raised the alarm over the security of the ark and other religious and cultural artefacts as a result of escalating conflict in the Tigray region of Ethiopia.

Among those voicing concern are academics from the Hiob Ludolf Centre for Ethiopian and Eritrean Studies at Hamburg University, who warn that Tigray’s rich cultural heritage is “highly endangered”. In an appeal, they say reports suggest “hostilities are taking place in close proximity to renowned cultural sites”.

They add: “There are reports of looting of manuscripts from Tigrayan churches and monasteries, and warnings that they will ... be taken out of Ethiopia to be sold at antiquities markets in other countries.”

The conflict began in early November when Ethiopia’s Nobel peace prize-winning prime minister Abiy Ahmed sent federal forces to attack the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which ruled the country for almost three decades until 2018. Abiy has accused the TPLF, which has its own military, of seeking to destabilise Ethiopia and holding illegitimate elections. Troops from Eritrea, Ethiopia’s former enemy to the north, have crossed the border to fight alongside Abiy’s forces.

Reliable reports of the fighting and its impact have been scarce due to a communications blackout and lack of humanitarian access, but the UN has warned of mass killings, the displacement of civilians and looting. More than 21,000 people have reportedly fled across the border to Sudan.

Heritage experts readily acknowledge that the humanitarian crisis must take priority over protection of the country’s artefacts and antiquities. But, said Alison Phipps, professor of languages and intercultural studies at Glasgow University, “these are sacred sites and of incalculable value to the history of Christianity and its development in Ethiopia in particular.

“Attacks on cultural heritage are devastating in the context of war as they speak of the destruction of the soul of a people, of things which have endured through the ancestors.”

Catherine D’Andrea, director of the Eastern Tigray archaeological project at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada, said the region was “truly blessed with numerous and varied forms of tangible and intangible cultural patrimony”.

They include monumental architecture such as the Unesco world heritage site of Aksum, rock-hewn churches and remains of one of the earliest mosques in Africa, which are at high risk of damage, she said. “In addition, there are less visible cultural treasures, including manuscripts, paintings, oral traditions and artefacts held by churches and monasteries scattered throughout rural areas of Tigray. These tend not to be fully documented, so we can’t even begin to calculate the potential losses if destroyed or pillaged.”

Despite the absence of verifiable information, damage from the conflict to the recently reconstructed 7th-century mosque complex at Negash had been clearly documented, said D’Andrea. “It appears that the structure was shelled and images from within are suggestive of looting.”

At the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion in Aksum, fleeing civilians have said the aim of the attack, in which hundreds of people hiding in the church were brought out and shot, was to remove the ark to Addis Ababa, according to Martin Plaut, a senior research fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies.

The ark is believed by Ethiopian Orthodox Christians to have been brought to Aksum by Menelik, the son of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon of Israel, after Jerusalem was sacked in 586/587BC and Solomon’s temple destroyed. It has since been guarded by a succession of monks who are forbidden until death to leave the church grounds.

As well as the potential threat to the ark, Eritrean troops were “looting everything they can get their hands on” in the region, Plaut told the Observer. “They’ve also gone through some monasteries and churches, taking Bibles and icons back across the border. It’s absolutely appalling.”

The monastery of Debre Damo, dating from the sixth century and containing painted ceilings and walls, is also reported to have been attacked.

Alessandro Bausi of the Hiob Ludolf Centre said he was “extremely concerned that unique artefacts will be destroyed or lost”. The centre is calling on Ethiopia’s state institutions to do “everything possible to protect the cultural property of Tigray”, and for warring parties “to abstain from attacking the cultural heritage and to respect the integrity of the places, both religious and secular, where this heritage is preserved”.

Under an atomic sky | Art blog (WIP)
FFShinra Beware the Crazy Man. from Ivalice, apparently Relationship Status: Too sexy for my shirt
Beware the Crazy Man.
Feb 16th 2021 at 7:34:57 PM

It's like they never learned anything from the crimes of the Derg.

Final Fantasy, Foreign Policy, and Bollywood. Helluva combo, that...
eagleoftheninth The Wanderer from the Seven Rivers Relationship Status: With my statistically significant other
The Wanderer
Feb 18th 2021 at 5:08:19 AM

‘Horrible’: Witnesses recall massacre in Ethiopian holy city.

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Bodies with gunshot wounds lay in the streets for days in Ethiopia’s holiest city. At night, residents listened in horror as hyenas fed on the corpses of people they knew. But they were forbidden from burying their dead by the invading Eritrean soldiers.

Those memories haunt a deacon at the country’s most sacred Ethiopian Orthodox church in Axum, where local faithful believe the ancient Ark of the Covenant is housed. As Ethiopia’s Tigray region slowly resumes telephone service after three months of conflict, the deacon and other witnesses gave The Associated Press a detailed account of what might be its deadliest massacre.

For weeks, rumors circulated that something ghastly had occurred at the Church of St. Mary of Zion in late November, with estimates of several hundred people killed. But with Tigray cut off from the world and journalists blocked from entering, little could be verified as Ethiopian and allied fighters pursued the Tigray region’s fugitive leaders.

The deacon, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he remains in Axum, said he helped count the bodies — or what was left after hyenas fed. He gathered victims’ identity cards and assisted with burials in mass graves.

He believes some 800 people were killed that weekend at the church and around the city, and that thousands in Axum have died in all. The killing continues: On the day he spoke to the AP last week he said he had buried three people.

“If we go to the rural areas, the situation is much worse,” the deacon said.

The atrocities of the Tigray conflict have occurred in the shadows. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for making peace with neighboring Eritrea, announced the fighting as the world focused on the U.S. election. He accused Tigray’s regional forces, whose leaders dominated Ethiopia for nearly three decades before he took office, of attacking the Ethiopian military. Tigray’s leaders called it self-defense after months of tensions.

While the world clamors for access to Tigray to investigate suspected atrocities on all sides and deliver aid to millions of hungry people, the prime minister has rejected outside “interference.” He declared victory in late November and said no civilians had been killed. His government denies the presence of thousands of soldiers from Eritrea, long an enemy of the Tigray leaders.

Ethiopia’s narrative, however, has crumbled as witnesses like the deacon emerge. The foreign ministry on Thursday acknowledged that “rape, plunder, callous & intentional mass killings” could occur in a conflict where “many are illegally armed.” Its statement blamed Tigray forces for leaving the region “vulnerable” and said any serious offense will be investigated. It did not mention Eritrean soldiers.

Axum, with its ancient ruins and churches, holds major significance for the Ethiopian Orthodox faithful, who believe that the Ark of the Covenant, built to hold the tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments, is located there.

“If you attack Axum, you attack first of all the identity of Orthodox Tigrayans but also of all Ethiopian Orthodox Christians,” said Wolbert Smidt, an ethnohistorian who specializes in the region. “Axum itself is regarded as a church in the local tradition, ‘Axum Zion.’”

In a normal year, thousands of people would have gathered at the Zion church in late November to celebrate the day Ethiopians believe the Ark of the Covenant was brought there after it disappeared from Jerusalem in ancient times.

Instead, the church had become a refuge for people who fled the fighting elsewhere in Tigray. They sheltered there as worship services were underway two days before the anniversary.

Eritrean and Ethiopian soldiers had arrived in Axum more than a week earlier, with heavy bombardment. But on Nov. 28 the Eritrean soldiers returned in force to hunt down members of the local militia who had mobilized against them in Axum and nearby communities.

The deacon recalled soldiers bursting into the church, cornering and dragging out worshippers and shooting at those who fled.

“I escaped by chance with a priest,” he said. “As we entered the street, we could hear gunfire all over.” They kept running, stumbling over the dead and wounded along with others trying to find places to hide.

Most of the hundreds of victims were killed that day, he said, but the shooting and looting continued the following day.

“They started to kill people who were moving from church to home or home to home, simply because they were on the street,” another witness, visiting university lecturer Getu Mak, told the AP. “It was a horrible act to see.” He watched the fighting from his hotel room, then ventured out as it eased.

“On every corner, almost, there was a body,” he said. “People were crying in every home.”

Another witness, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, said soldiers killed a man at his home near the Zion church. “How can I tell you? So many dead,” said the man, who has since escaped to the Tigray capital, Mekele.

After the killings in Axum came an uneasy period with soldiers roaming the streets and families searching for loved ones. At night, hyenas descended from nearby hills.

The city began to smell of death as some bodies went untouched for days.

“I saw a horse cart carrying around 20 bodies to the church, but Eritrean soldiers stopped them and told people to throw them back on the street,” said Getu, the university lecturer.

Finally, when the soldiers left the city to pursue other fighters, residents mobilized to bury the bodies, the deacon said.

“We could not do a formal burial,” he said. “We buried them en masse” in graves near the Zion church and others.

Some of the dead were among the hundreds of thousands of people in Tigray displaced by the conflict and not known to Axum residents. Their identity cards were collected in churches, where they await the discovery of loved ones.

The deacon said residents believe the Eritrean soldiers were taking revenge for the two-decade border war between Ethiopia and Eritrea that played out nearby and ended after Abiy became prime minister. Some of the soldiers told residents they had been instructed to kill people as young as 12, he said.

Another witness, a 39-year-old who gave only his first name, Mhretab, and escaped weeks ago to the United States, asserted that Ethiopian federal police did nothing to rein in the Eritrean soldiers.

“I said to them, ’Listen, you’re Ethiopian, they’re destroying Ethiopian cities. How is this possible?‴ Mhretab recalled.

”They said, ‘What can we do? This shouldn’t have happened from the beginning. This is from above,’” indicating that it had been decided by senior officials, he said.

He said he ferried bodies to a mass grave by the Zion church and estimated that he saw 300 to 400 there.

The deacon believes that the Eritrean soldiers, in their hunt for Tigray fighters, have killed thousands more people in villages outside Axum. “When they fight and lose, they take revenge on the farmers and kill everyone they can find,” he said. “This is what we’ve seen in the past three months.”

Getu echoed that belief, citing his uncle, who survived such a rural confrontation.

The deacon has not gone to the villages outside Axum. His work remains with his church, where services continue even as he says the Tigray conflict is as fierce as ever.

“We’re also protecting the church,” he said. “Even now, I’m talking to you from there. We are not armed. What we do is mostly watching. And, of course, praying that God protects us.

Under an atomic sky | Art blog (WIP)
vicarious vicarious from NC, USA
eagleoftheninth The Wanderer from the Seven Rivers Relationship Status: With my statistically significant other
The Wanderer
Feb 18th 2021 at 7:07:36 AM

Axum is a really ancient city, the historical royal capital of the Ethiopians and one of the world's first centres of Christianity. You gotta wonder how many people are going to hear about places like it, Palmyra and Ma'rib Dam and only recognise them as the sites of 21st-century atrocities.

Under an atomic sky | Art blog (WIP)
vicarious vicarious from NC, USA
FFShinra Beware the Crazy Man. from Ivalice, apparently Relationship Status: Too sexy for my shirt
Beware the Crazy Man.
Mar 18th 2021 at 9:40:57 AM

More specifically, he died of coronavirus after calling it a hoax...

Final Fantasy, Foreign Policy, and Bollywood. Helluva combo, that...
Ominae Organized Canine Bureau Special Agent
Organized Canine Bureau Special Agent
Mar 29th 2021 at 6:17:08 PM

Things are heating up in Mozambique with pro-ISIL capturing Palma...

Or so the news says.

Edited by Ominae on Mar 30th 2021 at 5:08:27 AM

"Exit muna si Polgas. Ang kailangan dito ay si Dobermaxx!"
eagleoftheninth The Wanderer from the Seven Rivers Relationship Status: With my statistically significant other
eagleoftheninth The Wanderer from the Seven Rivers Relationship Status: With my statistically significant other
The Wanderer
Jun 24th 2021 at 7:29:11 AM

BBC: Ethiopia's Tigray crisis: Heavy casualties reported after air strike.

Dozens of people have reportedly been killed or injured after Ethiopia's air force bombed a market in the northern region of Tigray.

Eyewitnesses told the BBC the Ethiopian air force struck the town of Togoga on Tuesday, 25km (15 miles) from the region's capital, Mekelle.

The Ethiopian military denied targeting civilians, saying it carried out the strikes to neutralise "terrorists".

Tigrayan rebel forces are said to have made advances in recent days.

However, this has been denied by the Ethiopian government.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it helped evacuate the wounded.

Meanwhile, the UN called on Ethiopia to investigate the reported air strike.

Thousands of people have been killed and millions displaced after conflict erupted almost eight months ago.

What happened in the strikes?

A medical doctor at Mekelle's main Aider hospital told the BBC that at least 60 people were killed and more than 40 were injured.

There are fears the numbers will increase further.

Doctors say they are treating dozens of people, including a two-year-old child left injured by the air strike.

Medical personnel told Reuters the Ethiopian military blocked them from reaching the site of the attack to help others left behind.

A 16-year-old boy told the BBC from Aider hospital that he was struck in the hand by shrapnel and that he saw several people thrown on the ground. He said that the air strike killed a man he knew.

Ethiopia's army said the strikes were against military targets.

"We never carried out an air strike on the market place. How is this possible? The army is capable of accurately hitting its targets. We conducted air strikes, but only on certain targets," a spokeswoman said.

What's the background to the conflict?

Ethiopia's government, aided by troops from neighbouring Eritrea, launched an offensive in November last year to oust the region's then ruling party, the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF). By the end of the month, it declared victory.

The TPLF had had a massive falling-out with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed over his political reforms, though its capture of federal military bases in Tigray was the catalyst for the invasion.

The TPLF has since joined forces with other groups in the region to form the Tigray Defence Force (TDF) rebel group.

Speaking to the BBC on Monday after casting his vote in the twice delayed national election, Mr Abiy said he was working with the troops in neighbouring Eritrea to get them to leave but said he would not "push them out".

They are accused of carrying out massacres, mass rape and blocking humanitarian aid - charges Eritrea has denied.

Under an atomic sky | Art blog (WIP)
TheWildWestPyro Relationship Status: Healthy, deeply-felt respect for this here Shotgun
Jun 28th 2021 at 9:34:29 PM

Ethiopian forces retreat in Tigray and rebels enter the capital

MEKELLE, Ethiopia — In a major turn in Ethiopia’s eight-month civil war in the northern Tigray region, Tigrayan fighters began entering the regional capital Monday night after Ethiopian government troops retreated from the city.

The Ethiopian military has occupied the Tigray region since last November, after invading in cooperation with Eritrean and militia forces to wrest control from the regional government. The Tigrayan forces, known as the Tigray Defense Forces, spent months regrouping and recruiting new fighters, and then in the past week began a rolling counterattack back toward the capital, Mekelle.

New York Times journalists in Mekelle saw thousands of residents take to the streets on Monday night, waving flags and shooting off fireworks after hearing that Tigrayan forces had advanced to the city.

The Tigrayans’ rapid advance was a significant setback for the government of Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, who had declared when he sent his forces into the restive Tigray region last year that the operation would be over in a matter of weeks.

Sisay Hagos, a 36-year-old who was celebrating in Mekelle on Monday, said: “They invaded us. Abiy is a liar and a dictator, but he is defeated already. Tigray will be an independent country!”

A senior interim official who had been installed in Tigray by the federal government confirmed that Tigrayan forces had entered the city and had seized control of the airport and telecommunications network. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid reprisals.

Ethiopia’s government said Monday that it had called a unilateral cease-fire in Tigray. It was not immediately clear, however, whether Tigrayan forces had accepted the truce.

Refugees and international observers have accused the invading forces of wide-ranging atrocities, including ethnic cleansing, and of pushing the region to the brink of famine.

But from the outset, the party in control of Tigray’s regional government, known as the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, or T.P.L.F., which for many years was the ruling party in Ethiopia, has vowed to resist.

Soldiers belonging to the Ethiopian National Defense Forces were seen leaving Mekelle in vehicles throughout the day on Monday, some of them with looted materials, according to international and aid workers. Soldiers also entered the compound of Unicef and the World Food Program, and disconnected the internet, they said. Shops in the city closed early.

On Monday afternoon, the headquarters of the interim government in Tigray were eerily deserted. The only person in the building was a woman working in the cafeteria while her children played on a phone.

Outside the building, federal police officers were seen throwing their belongings onto waiting buses and hastily getting ready to leave.

At the Axum Hotel, where some of the interim leaders had been staying, a receptionist said that the officials had checked out on Sunday and left. By Monday, some of them were already back in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

The Ethiopian government has kept up a harsh communications blackout from Tigray, and for months it was unclear what was going on in the region aside from scattered reports of continued fighting, and a growing stream of reports of rape, extrajudicial killings and other atrocities as victims came into Mekelle for treatment.

That shifted over the past week, as escalating violence and troop movements in Tigray made clear that the Tigrayan forces were on the counterattack. Heavy weapons were part of the fighting on both sides, and key towns reportedly changed hands among Ethiopian, Eritrean and Tigrayan forces, U.N. security documents show.

Last Tuesday, dozens of people were killed when a government airstrike hit a market in another part of Tigray and killed dozens of people, medics and witnesses said, in one of the deadliest single incidents of the eight-month civil war.

Just a day later, Tigrayan rebels struck back, downing an Ethiopian Air Force C-130 cargo plane as it approached Mekelle. In the days since, reports of rebel victories and Ethiopian government retreats began increasing.

Ethiopian forces reportedly abandoned a number of strategic positions around Adigrat, Abiy Adiy and in several locations in southern Tigray. The rebels also say they have captured several thousand Ethiopian soldiers and are holding them as prisoners of war.

Though the Tigrayans appear to have the upper hand, for now, around Mekelle, the picture in the rest of the region is still murky.

Despite Eritrea’s announcement in March that it would withdraw its forces from Tigray, Eritrean troops have continued to be a factor in the fighting. Eritrean forces have been spotted by aid workers throughout the Tigray Region, from towns in the far north west to dwellings in central areas of the region, where they have bolstered federal forces loyal to Mr. Abiy for months.

It was also unclear whether diplomatic efforts by other countries were having an effect on the action in Tigray. On Saturday, Ethiopia’s deputy prime minister, Demeke Mekonnen, met with several senior diplomats from Britain, Germany, the United States and Spain in Addis Ababa, according to two diplomats briefed on the talks. The diplomats said those talks did not reach any consensus on the need for a cease-fire in Tigray.

Getachew Reda, an executive member of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, said in a telephone interview last week that Tigrayan forces — which have mushroomed with thousands of new volunteers — had gone on the offensive, targeting four Ethiopian army divisions.

“We have launched an offensive at the divisions which we believed were critical,” Mr. Getachew said. “At the same time, they have abandoned many towns and cities.”

Ominae Organized Canine Bureau Special Agent
Organized Canine Bureau Special Agent
Jul 12th 2021 at 3:27:43 AM

Rwandan troops have arrived in Mozambique to assist the Mozambique Defence Armed Forces in their anti-terrorism ops in Cabo Delgado.

The EU is also pitching in.

"Exit muna si Polgas. Ang kailangan dito ay si Dobermaxx!"
eagleoftheninth The Wanderer from the Seven Rivers Relationship Status: With my statistically significant other
The Wanderer
Jul 24th 2021 at 5:06:40 AM

Al Jazeera: ‘Nothing left’: A catastrophe in Madagascar’s famine-hit south.

“Look at my child, please help us!” cries the woman.

She hurriedly undresses the five-year-old girl, uncovering gaunt arms and ribs that are painfully visible under the skin. The child allows herself to be pulled around before starting to shake.

The mother and her daughter live in the famine-stricken region of Anosy in Madagascar’s far south.

Penniless, they have another 10 kilometers (six miles) to walk from the village of Fenoaivo to the nearest health centre.

Further along the road, a family holds a silent vigil outside the hut where their father has lain since dying of hunger four days ago.

“We can’t bury him because we don’t have a zebu (cow). We won’t have a meal to serve, which is the most important thing for us,” says the dead man’s daughter Rahovatae by a low-burning fire.

The family has been digging for roots, the only food available while waiting for help to arrive.

“There’s nothing left here where we’ve been digging,” says Rahovatae, a mother of nine, a spade in her hand in the small wood outside the village.

She tears off a piece of one of the cactuses they have been eating for want of anything better.

“I chop off the spines with a knife. It’s horrible, it’s bitter and it sticks to the roof of your mouth. Even when you cook it doesn’t taste of anything. It’s making us weaker,” she complains.

The deserted hamlet where the family lives is one of those known to aid workers as “zombie villages” – home only to small numbers of wasted people who seem to be waiting for death.

Rahovatae and her family are among more than one million people in Madagascar in need of food in a vast area spread over 110,000 sq km (42,000 square miles).

Years with little rain have made farming impossible, while sandstorms have turned huge stretches of arable land barren – effects the United Nations has linked to climate change.

“We planted but there was no rain. Everything that’s planted dies. We don’t have anything left. Some of what we owned we sold, the rest was stolen by bandits,” says Sinazy, a mother of eight in Mahaly.

Her 17-year-old son Havanay is breaking wild nuts inside their little earth-and-straw hut.

“We eat the insides, this white kernel,” he says. “I break these from morning until dusk. But the fat can make you ill. I shake after I’ve eaten it,” Havanay says.

‘Horror film’

World Food Programme (WFP) chief David Beasley has compared the plight of the starving in Madagascar to a “horror film”, saying it was “enough to bring even the most hardened humanitarian to tears”.

Some 14,000 people have already reached a stage the WFP defines as level five, a “catastrophe when people have absolutely nothing left to eat,” says the organisation’s Madagascar representative Moumini Ouedraogo.

Neither the government nor the WFP publicly tracks the number who have died of starvation, but the AFP news agency has tallied at least 340 deaths from local authority figures in recent months.

The UN estimates Madagascar will need $78.6m to provide vital food aid in the next lean season starting in October.

Several aid groups have been handing out hundreds of tonnes of food and nutritional supplements for months with government help.

But this is not nearly enough.

In Ambovombe, the main town in the hard-hit Androy region, hundreds have been surviving without help for months.

They beg and eat food scraps from the market – even leather offcuts given to them by sandal makers.

Boiled with a little salt to soften it or grilled, the leather “tears up our stomachs, but it’s because we have nothing. We’re suffering badly”, says Clarisse.

President Andry Rajoelina has launched “several actions” since his 2019 election aimed at “a true transformation in the south,” his chief of staff Lova Hasinirina Ranoromaro said, adding that there is “strong political will”.

The president himself has announced via Twitter that “140 major projects” will be launched in agriculture, water supply, public works and health.

Madagascar has gone through 16 recorded food crises since 1896.

Researcher Paubert Mahatante, the secretary-general of the Southern African Non-State Actors Platform in Fisheries and Aquaculture, says that as well as climate change, other factors including “the population explosion combined with exhaustion of natural resources,” are to blame.

Under an atomic sky | Art blog (WIP)
Ominae Organized Canine Bureau Special Agent
Organized Canine Bureau Special Agent
Aug 1st 2021 at 8:25:28 PM

Rwandan troops have engaged Islamists in Mozambique.

Other news indicates that Botswana and Zimbabwe are sending in their troops to help.

"Exit muna si Polgas. Ang kailangan dito ay si Dobermaxx!"
Ominae Organized Canine Bureau Special Agent
Organized Canine Bureau Special Agent
Aug 6th 2021 at 6:49:55 PM

Coup attempt in Madagascar is taken out. Mixture of locals and foreigners were arrested.

"Exit muna si Polgas. Ang kailangan dito ay si Dobermaxx!"
vicarious vicarious from NC, USA
Ominae Organized Canine Bureau Special Agent
Organized Canine Bureau Special Agent
Aug 8th 2021 at 8:18:28 PM

On something cheerful, the Rwandan military announced the success of recapturing Mocimboa da Praia.

"Exit muna si Polgas. Ang kailangan dito ay si Dobermaxx!"

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