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confidentially speaking

The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 21st March 2019

Disaster politics

Blue Lines

In Mozambique, Cyclone Idai has torn through the homes of over 1.7 million people in what is turning into a regional catastrophe.  Eye-witnesses speak of an 'inland ocean' forming west of Beira, which has been almost completely cut off from the rest of the country. Within hours, the chaos spread to neighbouring Malawi and Zimbabwe, which appear to have been even less well prepared for the disaster.

Although early reports said around 100 people had been killed in Mozambique, President Filipe Nyusi reckons that as many as a thousand have lost their lives in the ensuing devastation. The United Nations, which has flown in an assessment team, says that its meteorological experts warn that it could become the worst humanitarian disaster ever seen in the Southern Hemisphere.

This cyclone looks likely to be more devastating than the floods of 2000, when it rained for five weeks with over 700 fatalities. Then, Mozambique won plaudits for its emergency response and the resilience and generosity of its people.  Since then, the ruling clique, including both the past and current presidents, Armando Guebuza and Nyusi, have been held responsible for presiding over a US$2 billion secret loans scandal which has deprived citizens of vital public services. Now, the priority is to rescue the thousands of people trapped by the disaster, but this tragedy should also shine a light on the systemic corruption in the country and the elite's effort to conceal it.