CW 13/2021: Capture and blockage
Press Review 27 March 2021 to 1 April 2021

Thousands of people on the run in northern Mozambique

Last week, rebels took control of the city of Palma in the Cabo Delgado region in northern Mozambique. This is the first time they control a whole city in the crisis region. Mozambican security forces and dozens of civilians have been killed and thousands have been displaced. United Nations observers describe the situation as worrying and fear that it will worsen. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), more than 3,300 people have fled to surrounding districts – on foot, by bus or boat; some have also been flown out by UN helicopters. In a video, the terrorist group “Islamic State” (IS) has now claimed responsibility for the attack. After 16 years of civil war, a slow process of democratization had begun in Mozambique. Since 2017, however, there have been repeated brutal attacks by Islamist fighters on state facilities and settlements in Cabo Delgado. According to the UN, 670,000 people have fled the region and more than 2,600 have been killed. The government in Maputo is failing to effectively control the Cabo Delgado province, which is characterized by poverty, corruption and poor governance. Huge natural gas reserves were discovered off the coast of the province, which international energy companies are to develop. The latest attacks began shortly after the French company Total announced that it would resume work on its natural gas project in Afungi, near Mozambique’s northeastern border with Tanzania. Total had temporarily suspended the project due to previous attacks. The former colonial power Portugal, which currently holds the EU presidency, has now decided to send soldiers to the crisis area to support the local security forces.


Days-long blockage of the Suez Canal ended 

After almost a week of blockage of the Suez Canal by the 400-metre-long container ship Ever Given, the 220,000-ton vessel was successfully unblocked on Monday afternoon. Last week, the cargo ship had been slightly blown off course by a sandstorm and ran aground due to changing currents and pressure conditions. Both bow and stern got stuck on the banks of the channel. With the help of dredgers and tugs, work was going on around the clock to free the ship. The Ever Given belongs to the Evergreen shipping company, which composes the names of its freighters from the word Ever and another word beginning with the letter G – besides the Ever Given for example, the Ever Gentle, Ever Genius or Ever Gleamy. The Suez Canal, which connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea, is the most important waterway between Europe and Asia, 12% of world trade is transported through the canal. The blockage held up goods worth an estimated 9.6 billion US dollars every day. For Egypt, the 193-kilometre-long canal represents a central source of income. Last year, the North African country collected 5.6 billion US dollars for the passage of about 19,000 ships. The blockage of the trade route cost Egypt 11.9 million US dollars a day. Around 370 ships were jammed at the canal entrances. According to the canal authority, it will probably take until the end of the week to completely clear the traffic jam. Despite the economic damage, the situation was commented on with a lot of humour in the social media. Photos of the stuck ship became popular “internet memes” within a very short time. Songs like “Stuck in the middle with you” by Stealers Wheel and “Hold back the River” by James Bay were collected in a Spotify playlist called “Songs to listen to while stuck in the Suezcanal” and listened to by tens of thousands of users.


In other news

Kenyan Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o is the first writer to be nominated for the international Booker Prize for a book written in an African language. The British literary prize is awarded for the best novel translated into English. As both author and translator of the novel “The Perfect Nine”, Thiong’o is nominated for the prize, which is worth 50,000 pounds. In the novel in verse, written in the Bantu language Gikuyu, nine sisters embark on a quest to find a cure for their youngest sibling who cannot walk. Until the 1970s, the now 83-year-old wrote his novels in English, since then in his mother tongue Gikuyu. Among other things, he dealt with British colonial policy and post-colonial rule in Africa. Thiong’o’s work was banned by the Kenyan government in 1977, and the author was held in a high-security prison for a year without trial. On toilet paper, he wrote his first modern Gikuyu novel, “Devil on the Cross”. In addition to Thiong’o, twelve other international writers are nominated for this year’s international Booker Prize for novels in eleven different languages.

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