No food, no water: African migrants recount terrifying Atlantic crossing

Men rescued off Brazil after 35 days at sea tell of harrowing 3,000 -mile journey on which some drank urine to survive

In the working day after the food and water had run out, as the catamaran floated helplessly in the Atlantic with a snapped mast and broken motor, there was nothing left to do but pray, told Muctarr Mansaray, 27.

” I pray every day. I pray a lot at that particular moment. I don’t sleep at night ,” he told.

Mansaray and 24 other African migrants had set out from the African nation of Cape Verde in April, on what they were told by the two Brazilian crewmen would be a comparatively quick and easy voyage to a new country where they hoped to find work.


This weekend, they were rescued by fishermen 80 miles off the coast of Brazil, after an incredible 3,000 -mile journey across the Atlantic.

The humen, from Senegal, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau had been at sea for 35 days- the last few days without food and water.

Details have now begun to emerge of the men’s terrifying and chaotic voyage in a 12 -metre catamaran scarcely big enough for them to squeezing on. When food and water operated out, some even drank sea water and urine.

” After 35 days of journey in these conditions it is really lucky that nobody succumbed ,” told Luis Almeida, head of the federal police’s immigration department in Sao Luis, the capital of Maranhao state.

” There was not a cabin for all of them, so they were exposed to a lot of sun and solar radiation during these 35 days ,” he told. The rescued humen were disorientated, dehydrated and some had problems seeing after so long exposed to second-hand glare of sunshine reflected on the waves.

Almeida said the case was unprecedented: African stowaways have been found on cargo ships in Maranhao ports before, but this was the first time a boatload of migrants had arrived in the nation. The two Brazilians also on the boat were arrested for promoting illegal immigrations.

The journey began in the island nation of Cape Verde, 400 miles west of Senegal.

Mansaray, a Muslim from Freetown in Sierra Leone, had moved there five years ago to study science and technology with hopes of becoming a educator. He analyse for two years but was struggling to pay his university fees and running as a cellphone repairman.

” They called me the cellphone doctor ,” he told the Guardian by phone from Sao Luis.

A friend who is a student in Sao Paulo told him he could study for free in Brazil’s biggest city and would be able to send fund home to his elderly parents and sister in Freetown.” I said, cool, that’s why I got that barge ,” he said.

The small catamaran used for the intersect. Photo: Handout

He said he had been introduced to a Brazilian on the street and then paid $700( PS521) for what he was told would be a 22 -day passage.

He became scared when he saw the size of the vessel he was about to cross the Atlantic on.

” I am the last to arrive, when I enter on the boat, a lot of guys, oh my God, is this going to be safe all of us ?” he told.” How can I do this journey? Because I am already in, I cannot discourage other people, so I find heroism and run .”

‘The motor transgressed, and the sail broke’

Others had paid more on the promise that they would be given food, but within 10 days the food had run out, so the three men survived on two biscuits or a few spoonfuls of food each day. One day, one man caught a fish with a rope.

” We simmered a fish, and everybody eat ,” Mansaray said.

But the mast snapped when one of the boat’s crew was trying to tie it to the other side of the barge, he told, and the motor would not work because the crew had mixed kerosene and diesel. A storm came as a relief because at least there was rainwater to drink.

Elhadji Mountakha Beye, 36, was hit on the head when the mast contravene and has been left with a scar. The mechanic from Dakar in Senegal had previously lived in Cape Verde , and paid EUR1, 000( PS877) for his passage in the hope of finding work in Brazil where he hoped to meet up with a Senegalese friend in Sao Paulo.” There is better work there than in Senegal ,” he said.

Hora 1 (@ hora1)

Barco com imigrantes africanos e resgatado por pescadores na costa brasileira.Vinte e cinco africanos que estavam a deriva em alto mar foram resgatados por pescadores cearenses e levados para o litoral do Maranhao: https :// sgUnMGEnuP #Hora1 4XJCGF8Sqj

May 21, 2018

He described a hellish journey.

” It was tiring, there was no food, the food ran out, the water ran out ,” he said.” Just on that sea. The motor broke, and the sail violated. Now just wait for someone to help us .”

Just as the situation was becoming dire, the men aboard the drifting ship spotted a fishing barge and signalled that they were in distress. The anglers, from nearby Ceara state, towed the catamaran to the nearby port of Sao Jose de Ribamar.

” The next day person would have died ,” Moises dos Santos, one of the fishermen, told reporters when the men landed.” They said they eat two cookies a day. They even drank urine, that’s what they say, they told us. We felt very honoured to save the lives of a lot of people .”

‘ We are not criminals. We are hard-working guys .’ Photograph: Handout

The humen were met by a medical squad from the Maranhao state government’s secretariat of human rights, taken to a health post for checks and then housed in a local gymnasium.

” All of them said life was precarious in their origin countries and they all have relatives or people they know living in Brazil. They were looking for a better life and to work in Brazil ,” said Jonata Galvao, the state’s adjunct secretary for human rights.

Federal police said they were now assessing a” migratory answer” for the men to stay in Brazil.

” We are not criminals. We are hard-working guys. So I believe that the government will help us to do that ,” Mantsaray said.” It is my dreaming, and I believe my dreaming will come true with the help of God, and I can support my family back home .”

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Two Britons held hostage in Democratic Republic of Congo freed

Pair said they were very relieved after release from kidnapping in gorilla sanctuary

Two Britons and a local driver who were taken hostage on Friday in one of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s national parks have been released.

Bethan Davies and Robert Jesty- the two British nationals- said they were “very relieved”, in a statement posted issued through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

They told:” We are very relieved that we have now been a positive outcome to the kidnapping and are very grateful for the excellent supporting we have received. We do not plan to comment farther .”

Earlier the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, paid tribute to the kidnap victims and the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation for their help in securing the release.

A park ranger, Rachel Makissa Baraka, who was travelling with the pair, was fatally injured when the men and their Congolese driver were confiscated during a visit to the Virunga national park, a renowned gorilla sanctuary in the east of the African country.

A number of kidnappings have taken place during the past six weeks in the park, which is home to about one-quarter of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas. They come against the backdrop of rising violence across the province of North Kivu.

Johnson told:” I am delighted to announce that two British nationals who were held hostage in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have been released. I pay tribute to the DRC authorities and the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation for their tireless help during this terrible case.

” My supposes are now with the family of Virunga Park ranger Rachel Makissa Baraka, who was killed during the kidnapping, and with the injured driver and the released British nationals as they recover from this traumatic incident .”

A statement issued by the park authorities said the men and their driver were receiving support and medical attention.

The park’s director, Emmanuel de Merode, said:” We are deeply saddened by the death of Virunga national park ranger Baraka, whose life was tragically cut short whilst protecting the passengers and driver. We wish to extend our deepest condolences to her family and our sincerest gratitude for her courage and service to Congo .”

Baraka, who was one of the park’s 26 female rangers, died in hospital from injuries sustained on Friday. Eight rangers have died in Virunga since the start of the year, according to the park authorities.

No further details were provided about the circumstances in which the pair were released. Congolese soldiers and park rangers have been conducting an operation to situate them after unidentified armed humen ambushed the group on Friday morning north of Goma, the capital of DRC’s North Kivu province.

The Foreign Office advises against all but essential traveling to the cities of Goma. The advice adds:” Opportunities for gorilla trekking in the Virunga national park in North Kivu are restriction, and armed groups are sometimes active within the park .”

Eastern Congo has been the scene of successive waves of violence in the past two-and-a-half decades and was at the epicentre of two wars between 1996 and 2003.

Rebel groups and militias still control big swathes of the territory. More than 175 rangers have died protecting Virunga national park, which is located in the rugged mountains and volcanic plains adjacent to neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda.

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No hidden rooms in Tutankhamun burial chamber, says Egypt

Antiquities ministry tells radar scans devote conclusive evidence there are no concealed rooms

Egypt’s antiquities ministry has said new radar scans offer conclusive evidence that there are no hide rooms inside King Tutankhamun’s burial chamber.

Mostafa Waziri, the secretary general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, said an Italian squad had conducted extensive studies with ground-penetrating radar that presented the tomb did not contain any hidden, manmade blocking walls, as was earlier suspected.

In 2015 after analysis of high-definition laser scans, a British Egyptologist, Nicholas Reeves, proposed that Queen Nefertiti’s tomb could be disguised behind wall paintings in the boy king’s burial chamber.

The ministry told previous scans by Japanese and American scientists had proved inconclusive.

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Huge crowds turn out for Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s funeral

Tens of thousands attend emotional service for veteran anti-apartheid activist

Tens of thousands of South Africans have filled a stadium in Soweto for the funeral service of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, a heroine of the anti-apartheid fight in South Africa but also one of its most controversial figures.

Shouts of” Long live Comrade Winnie”,” the struggle continues” and “power to the people” rang out around the stadium on Saturday throughout a powerful and emotional service to the activist, legislator and former wife of Nelson Mandela.

A joyful and tearful mob listened, sing and danced to prayers, tributes and the anthems that sustained those fighting for freedom in South Africa through decades of repression.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, dignitaries from around the continent and many of South Africa’s most famous political and cultural figures joined rank and file members of the ruling African National Congress and well-wishers from around the country.

In his eulogy, Ramaphosa called Madikizela-Mandela proud, strong, brave and articulated.” Winnie’s life was of service to her people, it was a life of compassion … Like many of the great leaders of her generation she understood that the suffering she endured defined society ,” he said.

” She felt compelled to join a struggle that was as noble in its purpose as perilous in its execution. Aloud and without apology, she spoke truth to power.

” We are a nation hurt by our past, numbed our present, hesitant about the future … she has united us in sorrow. She was our conscience .”

Known as” the mother of the nation “, Madikizela-Mandela died 12 days ago, aged 81.

Entire stands were packed with red-shirted activists of the populist leftwing opposition Economic Freedom Fighters party, which insures itself as continuing of Madikizela-Mandela’s efforts to bring about a revolutionary economic transformation in South Africa.

The stadium is little more than a mile from where Madikizela-Mandela lived during the darkest days of apartheid and until her death.

Thousands have signed a condolence book outside her home on a modest street in the Orlando West neighbourhood, where overcrowded single-storey homes with tin roofs still line the slopes of rocky outcrops.

Among the corsages piled outside its gate, a new memorial bears the legend” I am the product of the masses, of my country and an expression of the results of my enemy”, a 1996 quote attributed to Madikizela-Mandela.

Her death has prompted a fierce debate in South Africa between her many admirers and a smaller number of detractors.

” Some kudo’ Winnie’ because she was a fearless fighter for justice and a feminist icon; others excoriate her because she was a violent egomaniac. The contest has been shrill and depressing in equal measure ,” wrote Palesa Morudu , a publisher and novelist, last week .

During the funeral service, her daughter Zenani Mandela-Dlamini told recent days had shown” South Africa and the world hold men and women to different standards of morality “.

” My mother was one of many women who rose up against a nuclear-armed state to bring us the peace and republic we enjoy today. The combat for our freedom was not some polite picnic to which you arrive with your best behaviour ,” she said to cheers.

Born in the poor Eastern Cape province, Madikizela-Mandela’s childhood was ” a blistering inferno of racial hatred”, in the words of her British biographer Emma Gilbey.

The young hospital social worker marriage Mandela shortly before the ANC leader was sentenced to life imprisonment for treason in 1962.

During her husband’s 27 -year incarceration, Madikizela-Mandela campaigned tirelessly for his release and for the rights of black South Africans. Her fortitude and defiance brought her a huge personal following.

Tortured and subjected to repeated house arrest, she was kept under surveillance and, in 1977, banished to a remote town in another province.

As the violence of the apartheid authorities reached new intensity, Madikizela-Mandela was drawn into a world of internecine disloyalty, reprisals and atrocity.

Most notoriously, she was found guilty of ordering the kidnapping of a 14 -year-old boy, Stompie Seipei, also known as Stompie Moeketsi, who was beaten and killed by members of her personal bodyguard in 1989.

Within a year, she dedicated the clenched-fist salute of black power as she strolled hand-in-hand with Mandela out of Cape Town’s Victor Verster prison on 11 February 1990.

The end of apartheid marked the start of a string of legal and political troubles.

Madikizela-Mandela refused to show remorse for abductions and murders carried out in her name, and separated from her husband in 1992. She was sacked from her ministerial post in 1995 after allegations of corruption and the couple divorced a year later, but her popular appeal remained strong.

She challenged President Thabo Mbeki over harmful HIV policies and in 2008 she took up the cause of immigrants under attack in widespread riots. A year later, she won a parliamentary seat. More lately, she spoke out against official corruption.

Madikizela-Mandela’s casket, draped in the South African flag, was transported from her home to the stadium in the same hearse that had carried the remaining Mandela.

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The 100 million city: is 21st century urbanisation out of control?

Projections indicate cities will swell at an astounding pace but whether that entails our redemption or an eco-disaster is by no means certain

The 1960 street map of Lagos, Nigeria, shows a small western-style coastal city surrounded by a few semi-rural African villages. Paved roads speedily turn to grime, and fields to forest. There are few buildings over six floors high and not many cars.

No one foresaw what happened next. In merely two generations Lagos grew 100 -fold, from under 200,000 people to nearly 20 million. Today one of the world’s 10 largest cities, it sprawls across nearly 1,000 sq km. Vastly wealthy in parts, it is largely chaotic and impoverished. Most residents live in informal settlements, or slums. The great majority are not connected to piped water or a sanitation system. The city’s streets are choked with traffic, its air is full of fumes, and its main dump covers 40 hectares and receives 10,000 metric tons of waste a day.

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What is the Overstretched Cities series?

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Overstretched City is an in-depth look at how urbanisation has assured cities all over the world mushroom in sizing, putting new strain on infrastructure and resources- but in some cases offering hope for a more sustainable relationship with the natural world.

Over the course of the week, Guardian Cities correspondents will look beyond the numbers to tell the stories of people affected by the 21 st century’s population and consumption boom. From sprawling cities in the developed world the hell is eating more than their fair share of energy and water, to less wealthy cities unequipped to handle the rapid increase in geographical and population size, we will interrogate this global phenomenon by talking to the people who are trying to mitigate its worst effects- and shine a light on the upside of human populations boom by exploring the social and environmental advantages of urban density.

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But new research been shown that the changes Lagos has seen in the last 60 years may be nothing to what might take place in the next 60. If Nigeria’s population continues to grow and people move to cities at the same rate as now, Lagos could become the world’s largest metropolis, home to 85 or 100 million people. By 2100, it is projected to be home to more people than California or Britain today, and to stretch hundreds of miles- with enormous environmental effects.

Makoko, a slum located in a lagoon in Lagos, Nigeria. Photograph: Frederic Soltan/ Corbis via Getty Images

Hundreds of far smaller cities across Asia and Africa has the potential to grow exponentially, say the Canadian demographers Daniel Hoornweg and Kevin Pope at the Ontario Institute of Technology. They suggest that Niamey, the barely known capital of Niger- a west African country with the highest birth rate in the world- could explosion from a city of fewer than one million people today to be the world’s eighth-largest city, with 46 million people, in 2100. Sleepy Blantyre in southern Malawi could mushroom to the size of New York City today.

Under the researchers’ extreme scenario- where countries are unable to control fertility rates and urbanisation continues apace- within 35 years more than 100 cities will have populations larger than 5.5 million people. By 2100, say the authors, the world’s population centers will have shifted to Asia and Africa, with only 14 of the 101 largest cities in Europe or the Americas.

What happens to those cities over the next 30 years will determine the global environment and the quality of life of the world’s projected 11 billion people. It’s impossible to know how exactly how cities will grow, of course. But the stark fact, according to the United nations organization, is that much of humanity is young, fertile and increasingly urban. The median age of Nigeria is just 18, and under 20 across all Africa’s 54 countries; the fertility rate of the continent’s 500 million women is 4. 4 births. Elsewhere, half of India’s population is under age 25, and Latin America’s average age is as high as 29.

Lagos, set to become the largest metropolis the world has ever known. Photo: Pius Utomi Ekpei/ AFP/ Getty Images

Latest UN projections expect the world’s population to grow by 2.9 billion- equal to another China and India- in the next 33 years, and possibly by a further three billion by the end of the century. By then, says the UN, humanity is expected to have developed into an almost exclusively urban species with 80 -9 0% of people living in cities.

Whether those cities develop into sprawling, chaotic slums- with unbreathable air, uncontrolled emissions and impoverished populations starved of food and water- or become truly sustainable depends on how they answer. Many economists argue that population growth is needed to create wealth, and that urbanisation significantly reduces humanity’s environmental effects. Other observers fear cities are becoming ungovernable- too unwieldy to adapt to rising temperatures and sea level, and prone to pollution, water shortfalls and ill health.

Many cities are already investing in clean transport and water, sewage, renewable energy, planning, wellbeing and good housing for all. Others face what seem like insurmountable problems.

All the projections below are based on Hoornweg and Pope’s research paper Population predictions for the world’s largest cities in the 21 st century.

Bangalore, India

Population in 2015: c 7 million
Projected in 2100: c 21 million

Rubbish dumped by a lake in Bangalore. Photo: Manjunath Kiran/ AFP/ Getty Images

” This city was renowned for its trees, ponds and pleasant air merely 25 years ago ,” says Tv Ramachandra, head of the Energy and Wetlands Research Group at the Indian Institute of Science.” Now it is a dead city, which has sacrificed its environment for some of the fastest economic growth watched anywhere in the world .”

India, which is widely expected to be the most populous country in the world with more than 1.5 billion people by 2050, has seen its urban population double in 30 years, to nearly 600 million. Its megacities, like Mumbai and Delhi, are not expected to grow much more; instead, smaller cities are rapidly expanding.

Ramachandra and his colleague Bharath H Aithal have documented the environmental effects of breakneck urban growth in Bangalore. They say temperature in the city has increased by 2-2. 5C over the past three decades, while the water table has declined in places from 28 metres down to 300 metres deep; there has been an 88% loss of vegetation and a 79% loss in wetlands, and frequent flooding even during normal rainfall.

Ramachandra fears that what has happened to Bangalore will happen to all Indian cities.” Air pollution is at dangerous levels, the water is polluted, there is nowhere for the waste to run, and the lakes have been killed ,” he says.

One girl’s mission: can Lakshmi find clean water in Bangalore ?

The” hysterium of unplanned urbanisation” is threatening nature as never before, says Prerna Bindra, writer of The Vanishing ,~ ATAGEND a new analysis of how urbanisation and economic growth have affected India’s rich wildlife.” Wetlands, lakes, green spaces are giving way to glass and concrete. The retreat of natural habitats has entailed the rapid decline of urban wildlife- even the once ubiquitous- house sparrows, or the bullfrogs and common toads that serenaded the monsoons, or jackals[ which were] once not a very uncommon sight on urban fringes .”

The solution may be in the hands of the many strong indigenous and middle class groups that have set up in the last 20 years to demand less destructive development and attempt to reduce the use of polluting fossil fuels, enforce conservation laws and educate the authorities concerned. But there is a long way to go.

” The situation is extremely worrying. People are moving out. Maladies are increasing. At this rate every home will need a dialysis machine ,” Ramachandra says.” Bangalore cannot continue like this. It is becoming an unliveable city. This is the worst city in the world for unchecked urbanisation .”

Kinshasa, DRC

Population in 2015: c 12 million
Projected in 2100: c 83 million

A boy traverses a river whose banks are littered with rubbish in the Kinshasa neighbourhood of Ngaliema. Photo: John Wessels/ AFP/ Getty Images

Pierre Sass moved to Kinshasa in the 1990 s. Like thousands of young man, he came here looking for work, rented an overcrowded room from a “brother” on the leading edge of the city and, four years later, bought his own plot of land. Today, the edge of the city is 3 miles( five kilometres) away and he has built his own two-room house for himself, his wife and three children. He has energy but no water or drainage.

Kinshasa had just 20,000 people in 1920. By 1940 it was home to about 450,000 people. Today it has perhaps 12 million and is predicted to be Africa’s second largest city with 75 million people inside 50 years. By western standards it is a dysfunctional, sprawling megalopolis, ringed by vast shantytowns of informal settlements, their infrastructure nonexistent or collapsing.

” When you go to there today you see disarray and congestion ,” tells Somik Lall, the World Bank’s lead economist for Africa.” Yes, it will be one of the biggest cities in Africa by 2050, but I do not think it is the model for future Africa , nor do I think it will have a population of 70 million .” He argues that Kinshasa’s current condition is not inevitably indicative of its future status.” There’s no way to say what cities will look like in 2100. Seoul in 1980 could never have predicted how it is today. It was grimy, dirty, industrial city. Africa has a young labour force. Places like Kinshasa are some of the most dynamic places in the world .”

Where the urban sprawl of Kinshasa gratifies the surrounding countryside. Photograph: FredR/ Flickr

He worries, however, that economic growth will not keep up with population growth, as it did in industrialising Asia, Europe and the US.” What seems to be happening in Africa is that it is triggering merely small-scale informal trading[ as opposed to global commerce ]. People coming to cities like Kinshasa are not adding financial benefits. Not enough investment is being constructed in the infrastructure of African cities .”

By 2100, about 40% of all humans and nearly half of all children in the world will be African- one of the fastest and most radical demographic changes in history. It is bound to be a messy transition, Lall tells.” But I am not worried about the grime and grime so much. That comes later. We mix up wanting a city to be productive and be pretty; I want to make sure people get a good job .”

Guiyang, China

Population in 2015: 4.3 million
Projected in 2050: 7 million

Guiyang, the capital of south-west China’s Guizhou province. Photo: Xinhua/ Alamy

Tan Guo is 24 years old and bewildered. After years living away from Guiyang, she returned last year from Germany to find the formerly small provincial capital had become China’s fastest-growing city, and completely unrecognisable.

The fields her grandparents run, once over eight kilometres from the smaller city centre, are now covered with closely packed high-rises. Her family members live on the eighth floor, seeming over shopping center and ring roads. Former slums have been bulldozed, farmland converted, rivers diverted and forests felled.

” Even the hills look different. I was really shocked. The city stretches in so far. It is like a new world where I know no one and nothing ,” she says.

The scale and velocity of China’s shift to cities is shocking- perhaps the fastest and largest migration of a human population in history. In merely 30 years, virtually 500 million people have moved from rural areas into China’s 622 main cities, and a predominantly rural country has become nearly 60% urban. By 2025, over one billion Chinese- two in three people– will live in cities.

Guiyang is a model of central urban planning from the perspective of people. It has few slums and little sprawl, and its growth has been ordered. But urbanisation has been an ecological disaster. In the early days, pollution turned the Nanming river black and stinking. Air pollution was allowed to continue unchecked, while carbon dioxide emissions emissions rocketed from coal-fired industry, forests were cleared and soil was polluted on a massive scale. And China’s breakneck urbanisation extends beyond its borders, devastating vast areas of Africa and Latin America, where it turned for the raw materials for its industrial revolution.

Tourists pose for a photo in Quanhu lake park in Guiyang. Photograph: Alamy

Today, Tan Guo’s Guiyang is still growing at breakneck speed, but authorities are trying to rectify some of the mistakes- though it would take generations to do so. The city has expended $150 m cleaning up the Nanming river and has curtailed new automobile marketings and set quotas on electric car numbers to reduce air pollution.

” Rapid urbanisation was encouraged. It was the way China grew its economy ,” says Gordon McGranahan of the Institute of Development Study in the UK, who specialises in global urbanisation.” China utilized cities to generate growth and land to generate investment. It had to bringing people to the cities; it experimented with converting land to urban areas. Its cities were critical to its growth. No one paid much attention to the environment until it made them in the face .”

Mexico City

Population in 2015: 20 million
Projected in 2050: 25 million

‘ No one expected it to grow so much’ … traffic in Mexico City. Photo: Brett Gundlock/ Getty Images

Priscilla Connolly has lived in Mexico City since the 1970 s. In that time, she has ensure it triple in sizing, into one of the world’s five largest cities.

” No one expected Mexico City to grow so much ,” says Connolly, a professor of urban sociology at the Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana.” But for years it was thought that the more people who lived there the very best. There was a pro-population policy. Now the city has stopped growing and medium-sized cities are growing fastest .”

The city is still vastly overcrowded, massively polluted and predominantly poor, with little space to build the 50,000 new houses a year that it needs. But it shows that rapid change can be controlled, and that urbanisation has its benefits.

” There has been progress in so many ways ,” Connolly tells.” Most people can read and are housed. They don’t expect to die at five. All in all it’s been a successful transition, though fraught with future environmental hazard .”

Smog above the urban sprawl of Mexico City. Photograph: Richard Ellis/ Alamy

Fast-growing cities in Africa and Asia could learn from Mexico City’s mistakes, Connolly says.” Planning and thinking was geared to the idea that automobiles could circulate. Merely 30% of Mexico City has a car, but the city was designed for the car. The 19 th-century sanitary revolution must continue to be rethought. The environmental impacts of urbanisation are much worse outside cities .”

The shantytowns and informal settlements that ringed Mexico City in the 1970 s are now being upgraded. However, environmental issues are still not high on the agenda, and the city has a semi-permanent water crisis.

” Water will be the crunch issue here. Will there be enough water? Probably not ,” Connolly tells.” Person will have to reduce intake. It will need more aggressive policies. Cities must think about the whole water cycle. In 50 years’ period, wastewater will be like gold .”

El Alto, Bolivia

Population in 2015 c1 million
P rojected in 2050: c2. 5 million

Cambridge Analytica was offered politicians’ hacked emails, say witnesses

Hackers offered personal data about future Nigerian president and future PM of St Kitts and Nevis, sources say

The data analytics firm that worked on the Donald Trump election campaign was offered material from Israeli hackers who had accessed the private emails of two legislators who are now heads of state, witnesses have told the Guardian.

Multiple sources have described how senior directors of Cambridge Analytica– including its chief executive, Alexander Nix- gave staff instructions to handle material provided by computer hackers in election campaigns in Nigeria and St Kitts and Nevis.

They claim there were two episodes in 2015 that alarmed members of staff and resulted them to refuse to handle the data, which they presumed would have been obtained illegally.

SCL Elections, Cambridge Analytica’s parent company, denied taking possession of or using hacked or stolen personal information from such individuals for any purpose in either campaign.

The revelations are the latest to focus attention on Cambridge Analytica, whose activities are being investigated in the US by the special counseling Robert Mueller as part of his inquiry into possible Russian collusion in the 2016 US presidential election.

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How the story unfolded

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In December 2016, while researching the US presidential election, Carole Cadwalladr came across data analytics company Cambridge Analytica, whose secretive way and chequered track record belied its bland, academic-sounding name.

Her initial investigations uncovered the role of US billionaire Robert Mercer in the US election campaign: his strategic “war” on mainstream media and his political campaign fund, some apparently links between Brexit.

She found the first indications that Cambridge Analytica might have use data processing methods that breached the Data Protection Act. That article inspired Britain’s Electoral Commission and the Information Commissioner’s Office to launch investigations whose remits include Cambridge Analytica’s use of data and its possible links to the EU referendum. These investigations are continuing, as is a wider ICO inquiry into the use of data in politics.

While chasing the details and ramifications of complex manipulation of both data and funding statute, Cadwalladr arrived under increasing assaults, both online and professionally, from key players.

The Leave.EU campaign tweeted a doctored video that showed her being violently assaulted, and the Russian embassy wrote to the Observer to complain that her reporting was a” textbook example of bad journalism “.

But the growing profile of her reports also devoted whistleblowers confidence that they could trust her to not only understand their stories, but retell them clearly for a wide audience.

Her network of sources and contacts grew to include not only former employees who regretted the performance of their duties but academics, lawyers and others concerned about the impact on democracy of tactics employed by Cambridge Analytica and associates.

Cambridge Analytica is now the subject of special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s probe of the company’s role in Donald Trump’s presidential election campaign. Investigations in the UK remain live.

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The firm is under pressure to explain how it came to have unauthorised access to millions of Facebook profiles. Politician in the US and UK have accused it of giving misleading statements about its work, and the information commissioner has demanded access to the company’s databases.

In all, the Guardian and Observer has spoken to seven someones with knowledge of Cambridge Analytica and its campaign in Nigeria in early 2015.

Hired by a Nigerian billionaire to support the re-election of Goodluck Jonathan, Cambridge Analytica was paid an estimated PS2m to orchestrate a ferocious campaign against his contender, the opposition leader Muhammadu Buhari. Jonathan lost out to Buhari in the presidential race. There is no suggestion Jonathan knew of the covert operation.

Staff working on the campaign say in early 2015 they met Israeli cybersecurity contractors in Cambridge Analytica’s offices in Mayfair, London. Employees say they were told the meeting was arranged by Brittany Kaiser, a senior director at the firm.

The Guardian and Observer have been told the Israelis brought a laptop from their office in Tel Aviv and handed employees a USB stick containing what they believed were hacked personal emails.

Sources told Nix, who was suspended on Tuesday, and other senior directors told staff to search for incriminating material that could be used to damage opposition candidates, including Buhari.

” It stimulated everyone feel really uncomfortable ,” said one source.” They wanted people to load it into their email programs .”

People ” freaked out”, another employee told.” They wanted to have nothing to do with it .”

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One member of the campaign team told the Guardian and Observer that the material they believed had been hacked included Buhari’s medical records.” I’m 99% sure of that. Or if they didn’t have his medical records they at least had emails that referred to what was going on .”

When news of the London meeting filtered back to Cambridge Analytica staff working on the ground in Nigeria, it caused panic, the source said. Local security consultants told the firm’s team to leave the country immediately because if opposition supporters found out, they could turn on them.

” What is clear is that the security of their employees didn’t even seem to have resulted to them ,” said one former employee.” It was a very serious situation and they had to evacuate immediately .”

An SCL Elections spokesperson said squad members working on the Nigeria campaign remained in the country throughout the original campaigning period, and left in accordance with the company’s campaign scheme.


Alexander Nix, CEO of Cambridge Analytica

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Alexander James Ashburner Nix




Eton, then Manchester University, where he studied history of art


Nix ran as a fiscal analyst in Mexico and the UK before joining SCL, a strategic communications firm, in 2003. From 2007 he took over the company’s elections division, and claims to have worked on more than 40 campaigns globally. Many of SCL’s projects are secret, so that may be a low estimate. He set up Cambridge Analytica to work in America, with investment from US hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer. He has been both hailed as a visionary- featuring on Wired’s listof” 25 Geniuses who are creating the future of business”- and derided as a snake oil salesman.


Cambridge Analytica has come under scrutiny for its role in elections on both sides of the Atlantic, working on Brexit and Donald Trump’s election team. It is a key subject in two investigations in the UK- by the Electoral Commission, into the firm’s possible role in the EU referendum, and the Information Commissioner’s Office, into data analytics for political intents- and one in the US, as part of special advise Robert Mueller’s probe into Trump-Russia collusion. The Observer exposed this week that the company had harvested millions of Facebook profiles of US voters, in one of the tech giant’s biggest ever data violates, and used them to build a powerful software program to predict and influence options at the ballot box. Emma Graham-Harrison

Photograph: The Washington Post

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The Guardian has seen an email from Nix dated 26 January 2015, referring to the “Israeli team”.

It tells:” Although it is outside of our remit, I have asked for an update on what the Israeli team has been working on and what they will be delivering between now and the election .”

In a second episode in early 2015, sources said the same Israeli team that had worked on the Nigeria campaign procured private information of the St Kitts and Nevis legislator Timothy Harris. At the time he was an opposition leader, and is now prime minister.

Sources have said personnel did not want to handle what appeared to be stolen material.” Nobody wanted to have anything to do with it ,” one employee said.

A statement from SCL Elections told:” During an election campaign, it is normal for SCL Elections to meet with vendors seeking to provide services as a subcontractor. SCL Elections did not take possession of or use any personal information from such individuals for any purposes. SCL Elections does not utilize’ hacked’ or’ stolen’ data .”

The statement added:” Members of the SCL Elections squad that worked on the Nigeria campaign remained in country throughout the original campaigning period, although the election was rescheduled and SCL was not retained for the entirety of the extended campaign period.

” Team members left in accordance with the company’s campaign plan. Squad members were regularly briefed about security concerns prior to and during deployment and measures were taken to ensure the team’s security throughout .”

The revelations will add to the questions confront Cambridge Analytica and the techniques it uses to influence elections for its clients.

In the UK, the Electoral Commission and the Information Commissioner’s Office are analyse the firm for breaches of electoral and data protection law.

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Trade wars? Africa has been a victim of them for years | Afua Hirsch

The continent has borne the brunt of taxes and tariffs from the US and Europe. No wonder some believe Africa needs its own Donald Trump, says Guardian columnist Afua Hirsch

What Africa requires, a friend of mine is fond of saying, is an African Trump: an” Africa first” leader who is not afraid of scratching the rest of the world up the wrong way, person willing to rip up traditional alliances, forgo historic links, forge a unified and common purpose among Africa’s diverse nations, and then make their own wants- unambiguously- the priority.

It’s a surprising style to frame things, but these are surprising periods, and political ideologies are upside down. Protectionism is having a moment in the sunlight, in a useful reminder of the degree to which our perception is skewed of which countries practise competitive capitalism and which do not.

Protectionism is often associated with, and criticised in, the policies of poorer countries. It’s what Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe and Iran do, and “what theyre” ranked among the least competitive business environments. Yet it is these countries from which Trump now takes inspiration. Indeed, it was India’s fondness for protectionism- enforcing 100% duties on US motorcycles while the US had zero responsibilities on motorcycles imported from India- that ostensibly justified Trump’s renewed passion for tariffs on imported steel.

America, with the EU by its side- the narrative runs- is the ultimate free-trade pillar of western capitalism. But this is one of the greatest branding myths of all time. America’s history of protectionism is American history- from the McKinley Tariff of 1890, to Barack Obama’s ban on all foreign iron and steel for infrastructure projects.

And Trump- the businessman many see as the human show of white male capitalism- took things further, campaigning on a platform of not trusting globalisation. “Protection,” said Trump during the 2016 electoral campaign,” will lead to great prosperity and strength .” He pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and is no fan of the North American Free Trade Agreement( Nafta ). America is a possibility the force behind the establishment of the World Trade Organisation, but Trump has already been a painful thorn in its side, causing mayhem by blocking the appointment of magistrates, and publicly labelling it “a catastrophe”.

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As America turns its back on even the appearance of free trade, global ideology is ever more topsy-turvy. In Britain, remainers such as myself want Britain be left in the European union, but we are far away from cheerleaders for it. Nothing symbolises the EU’s problematic behaviour better than its own history of protectionism. According to one analysis, of the 7,000 harmful trade measures implemented by countries across the globe since 2009, more than half have come from the EU. If Africa needs a Trump, it’s in no small portion because of the ways in which the liberal, rights-loving EU has bolt it. The common agricultural policy( CAP) severely distorted commodity marketplaces, depressing costs for African maize, sugar and beef and eliminating the competitive advantage many African countries should have had in a free marketplace.

CAP reform, Economic Partnership Agreements( EPAs ), and other initiatives designed to rectify colonial hangovers in the uneven playing field between EU members and African nations will not solve the problem, so long as European producers are subsidised. In this, I find myself uncomfortably in agreement with Brexiteers such as the Conservative MP James Cleverly- whose mom connects him to Sierra Leone, as mine does to Ghana- who describes the use of European taxation subsidies to deepen African agricultural poverty as” morally repugnant “. Not merely should Africa be a breadbasket for the world, instead of- as it has been since 1973- a major importer of food, but agricultural growth has a disproportionate effect on poverty, since so many low-income Africans live in rural areas.

Africans can take matters into their own hands, and they are doing.” It’s not up to Brussels- we know the playing field is not level ,” Lanre Akinola, editor of African Business, told me. Countries such as Brazil show how dramatically a food importer can turn itself into a major exporter through policy, research and investment in the sector.

Yet there’s no denying that since the global fiscal crash G20 nations has systematically increased protectionism, with painful consequences for the same African nations they self-congratulate for sending aid to. According to the African Development Bank, the continent’s nations the brunt of measures including export taxes and tariff and non-tariff obstacles, as well as country aid.

Those who dislike the effects of protectionism on Africa are now advocating African countries do more of it , not less. Ethiopia, with its closed economy, is frequently cited as a role model. In a protectionist world, poor nations looking for growth will inevitably follow suit. Full exposure to the global but unfree market has already been tried and tested, as the disastrous experience of the 1980 s its own programme of structural adjustment resolutely proved. Now African countries are facing unprecedented levels of spiralling national debt.

This all leaves those with liberal instincts in a strange place. On the one hand, free trade is an appealing notion.( I say ” idea” because we have never lived in a world sufficiently free of protectionism to know what it would actually be like .) The worst-case scenario is the current one: the barbarism of the market for poor countries, and the might of protection- tariffs, subsidies and state bailouts- for the rich. A guaranteed unequal playing field, whose casualties we witness time and time again.

The future is guaranteed to be counterintuitive. There is someone in the White House who calls himself a” blue-collar billionaire “, for goodness sake. The man who should be a case study in what not to do is inspiring imitation in the unlikeliest of places.

Many Africans are quite rightly more focused than ever on the benefits of greater regional integration. The proposed Tripartite Free Trade Area– connecting the continent’s three regional trading confederations- is assured by many, including a number of British and American diplomats, as a significant step in the right direction. Britain, leaving Europe, and the US, leaving Nafta, are hardly practising what they preach.

The one ray of light in the dog-eat-dog atmosphere of today’s international relations is that the ruthlessness with which powerful nations protect their self-interest is transparent. An African Trump is not to my taste, but it’s no amaze there is a growing craving for merely that.

* Afua Hirsch writes a fortnightly column for the Guardian

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Why is the world at war?

Syria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Yemen, Afghanistan, Ukraine the globe is scarred by violence

We live in a world of difficulty. Conflicts today may be much less lethal than those that scarred the last century, but this brings little convenience. We remain deeply anxious. We can blame terrorism and the fear it inspires despite the statistically unimportant number of casualties it inflicts, or the contemporary media and the breathless cycle of” breaking news”, but the truth remains that the wars that seem to inspire the fanatics or have made so many headlines in recent years prompt deep nervousnes. One reason is that these wars appear to have no end in sight.

To explain these conflicts we reach for easy binary schema- Islam v the west; haves against have-nots; nations that “play by the rules” of the international system against “rogues”. We also look to grand geopolitical theories- the end of the Westphalian system, the west faced by” the rise of the rest”- or even merely attribute the violence to “geography”. None of these explanations seems to adequately allay our concerns.

This week Mohammad bin Salman, the young Saudi Arabian crown prince, will be in London. One topic he will be discussing with British policymakers is the war raging since 2015 in its neighbour Yemen, where Saudi forces-out lead an alliance of regional powers against Houthi rebels. The war, part of a Saudi policy of adopting a more aggressive external posture, is not going well. It is a standstill which has left thousands of civilians dead.

Last week Ashraf Ghani, Afghanistan’s embattled chairwoman, announced a bold plan to draw the Taliban into a binding peace process. Commentator spoke of a last desperate gamble to bring an end to conflict that has gone on so long that there are western soldiers soon to be deployed to the country who come into nappies when it beginning in 2001.

In Syria, where the civil war is now in its seventh year, “were not receiving” respite either. Ghouta, a rebel-held suburb of Damascus, is under daily bombardment after years of siege. Militia manoeuvre for advantage across the country. If anyone guessed the autumn of Raqqa, the headquarters of Islamic State( Isis ), would bring an end to hostilities, the latter are sadly mistaken.

Nor are these” long wars”- which could include Somalia( at war since 1991) or Libya( since 2011) or Mali( since 2012)- restricted to the Islamic world. There is South Sudan, where a vicious four-year-old civil war is intensifying, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where more protests ended in bloodshed last week. The east of the DRC was the crucible of a huge conflict that killed 5 million people between 1997 and 2003 and has remained unstable ever since. Thousands have died and millions have been displaced by conflict there in the last 18 months as anarchy overcomes swaths of the vast country.

It is more than four years since Russia annexed Crimea and helped to provoke a rebellion in Ukraine’s industrial east. Since then about 10,000 people have died, including 3,000 civilians, and more than 1.7 million been displaced .~ ATAGEND Despite a ceasefire bargain, a low-intensity conflict has become the grind everyday backdrop for a region that no longer watches a way out of its misery.

To understand the duration of these conflicts we need to understand their nature. Most analysis focuses on states. This is inevitable. Our maps show the world divided into nations. These are the building blocks of our political, legal, social and economic systems and, as has become so obvious in recent years, key to our identity. In Afghanistan, the war is both to establish a state, and about differing visions of what form it is appropriate to take. In Syria, the war is to maintain, or depose, a state. In Yemen, the war is to control one. In the DRC, the conflict’s roots lie in the weakness of the state.

States have also prolonged these conflicts and, in some cases, caused them. Russia’s irredentist aspirations in Ukraine, Pakistan’s interference in Afghanistan. The involvement of so many regional and international performers in Syria fuelling, whether purposely or accidentally, violence.

Yet, however important, nations are far from the only protagonists in these conflicts. In two decades of covering dozens of conflicts around the world, I have reported on only two that involved military forces of two nations in direct showdown. One was the short war between India and Pakistan in 1999; the second was the war in Iraq in 2003. According to researchers at the University of California, there are none more recent.

The front lines in these new conflicts often follow boundaries that divide clans or castes , not countries. They lie along frontiers between ethnic or sectarian communities, even those dividing, for example, pastoralists from herders or the landed from the landless, from those who speak one dialect or language from neighbours who speak another. These frontlines are not difficult to tracing, on the map or on the ground.

In fact, if we look around the world at all its many conflicts, and if we define these wars more broadly, then we find frontlines everywhere, each with its own no man’s land strewn with casualties. In Mexico, Brazil, South Africa or the Philippines, there is huge violence associated with criminality and the efforts( by states) to stamp it out. There is violence perpetrated against females by the individuals who dread progress in the struggle for a more equitable distribution of power, status and wealth. There is economic violence- how else to describe the deaths of 1,000 people in a building collapse in Bangladesh in 2013 or, in DRC again, the traumata to miners excavating out critical commodities to the world’s industries?

Our world may not be racked by conventional conflicts between nation states of previous ages, but it is still a very violent place. The harsh reality may be that we should not be wondering why wars seem so intractable today, but why our time on this planet makes such intractable wars.


A boy injured boy by bombing in Damascus, Syria. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/ Getty

The conflict in Syria will soon enter its eighth year and, though the fighting that once consumed much of the country has now been restricted to a much smaller region, the chance of real peace still looks very distant. The best that anyone can hope for is a slow evolution towards a precarious pause punctuated by bouts of appalling brutality as the regime of Bashar al-Assad, bolstered by supporting from Moscow and Tehran, makes efforts to reassert its authority over the shattered country.

What such efforts involve has become clear recently. In the last few weeks, air strikes by Syrian airplanes have killed more than 600 civilians in Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus held by the opposition since 2013.

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How bad is the situation in eastern Ghouta and is aid get in?

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In an attempt to convey the desperate and unyielding misery, the United Nations Children’s Fund released a blank statement on 20 February. A footnote said the agency has no words to describe the” children’s suffering and our outrage “.

The UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres, did have words:” Hell on earth.”

An calculated 400,000 civilians, already starved from years of siege, are trapped amid relentless air strikes. Hundreds of people have been killed in the barrage that started on 18 February. Humanitarian groups are pleading for an urgent ceasefire to allow them inside.

Aid workers say Syrian helicopters have been falling barrel bombs – metal drums packed with explosives and shrapnel – on marketplaces and medical centres.

Photograph: Mohammed Badra/ EPA

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Although Isis has now been forced from almost all of its territory in Syria, other hardline Islamist groups remain very active, including one powerful organisation links between al-Qaida. Armed opposition groups continue to receive logistical support and funding from the United States, Turkey and several Gulf countries. A Kurdish group has confiscated a swath of territory in the north-east. Successive efforts at peace negotiations have all failed.

Why has the war lasted so long? The Syrian war has always been vastly complex, fought out along national, sectarian, ideological and ethnic divides. This alone would have guaranteed a lengthy conflict, even without the involvement of regional and international performers. The UN has been marginalised by power politics. The US has stood back. The result has been massive agony and a broken country which, even if peace can be achieved, will need up to a trillion dollars to rebuild itself. The toxic effects of the conflict have been felt across the world.


A Huthi rebel inspects bomb injury in Sana’a, Yemen. Photograph: AFP/ Getty Images

The chaos, and resulting war, in Yemen is now in its seventh year. The immediate roots of the current conflict lie in the aftermath of an Arab spring-inspired uprising in Yemen, the Arab region’s poorest country, that forced its veteran leader, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to step down in favour of his deputy Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi in 2011.

But other causes lie deeper.

Yemen, once a British colony, has never been stable, and was only united after brutal conflicts in the 1990 s. For more than a decade before the crisis of 2011, corruption, unemployment, food shortages, a powerful tribal system, entrenched separatism in the south, and the involvement of regional powers had combined to maintain high levels of instability.


Yemen’s civil war

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2011 An Arab Spring-inspired uprising forces Yemen’s authoritarian chairman, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to agree to leave office.

2012 Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, previously Saleh’s deputy, takes over as chairperson following an electoral. He was the only candidate. He fights to unite the country’s divided political scenery, cope with food insecurity and al-Qaida threats.

2014 Houthi rebels( who belong to the Zaydi sect of Shia Islam) make advances and begin capturing the northern part of the country, an region they have historically controlled. In September they enter the capital, Sana’a. Hadi flees to Aden.

2015 A renewed rebel offensive forces-out Hadi to flee to Saudi Arabia, which views the Houthis as an Iranian proxy force-out. It begins bombing what it says are” military targets” associated with the Houthis and forces loyal to Hadi’s predecessor, Saleh. The Saudi air campaign receives backing from a alliance of Sunni Arab states, as well as logistical support from the US, UK and France.

June 2016 The Saudi-led alliance is included on a UN blacklist of states and groups that contravene children’s rights in conflict, reporting it is responsible for 60% of child deaths and injuries. After Riyadh protests, the UN removes it from the listing. Human Rights Watch warns of” political manipulation “. At least 6,200 people have been killed, 2.8 million displaced.

October 2016 An airstrike by the Saudi coalition hits a funeral in Sana’a, killing 140. The UN announces a 72 -hour ceasefire, which is allegedly broken by both sides.

2017 Devastated by two years of fighting, Yemen is described by the UN as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Millions facing famine and the risk of being cholera.

November 2017 Saudi Arabia imposes a siege on Yemen’s ports, in accordance with the firing of a missile at Riyadh from rebel-held province in Yemen. Medications, inoculations and food are prevented from entering the country. The heads of the World Food Programme, Unicef and the World Health Organisation advise” untold thousands of innocent victims, among them many children, will die “.

Rebecca Ratcliffe

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Jihadi fighters had long been a force in Yemen, developing into a powerful local al-Qaida affiliate. A popular backlash against US counter-terrorism operations, which included droning strikes, and overspill of activists from Saudi Arabia worsened a complicated situation. This meant President Hadi was faced by huge challenges on taking power.

Chief among them was insurgency led by the Houthis, a minority Shia rebel group based in the north of Yemen with a long history of uprising against the Sunni-dominated government.

The insurgents seized Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, in January 2015, forcing Hadi and his government to resign. This inspired regional participation which has led to a humanitarian crisis putting millions at risk of starvation. A alliance of Gulf nations led by Saudi Arabia- which received US, British and European logistical and intelligence support- launched air strikes against the Houthis. It has also blockaded Yemen to stop Iran smuggling weapons to the rebels. Tehran denies the charge.

Why has the war lasted so long? Fiendishly complicated tribal and sectarian dynamics ensure that no single faction is strong enough to win, while external involvement ensures all can stay in the fight. The conflict has depicted in more than a dozen country level is linked to broader regional contests for power. A federal bargain might bring peace but seems unlikely right now.

Democratic Republic of Congo

Government soldiers before an attack on rebels in Kimbau, the Democratic Republic of Congo. Photograph: Goran Tomasevic/ Reuters

Should the Democratic Republic of the Congo slide back into the kind of conflict seen in the vast country between 1997 and 2003, it is likely that the intervening years of very relative calm will be forgotten. The six-year war, that started more than 20 years ago, was prompted by the autumn of President Mobutu Sese Seko and exacerbated by the involvement of all regional powers, many attracted simply by the opportunity to loot the country’s mineral and metal resources. These still remain a draw, even if there is no current appetite among its neighbours to risk the sort of chaos that led to the deaths of more than 5 million people.

Yet the signs of deterioration are there: a weak central authority under President Joseph Kabila , who has outstayed his mandate by 15 months; disintegrating law and order in places where there was never much government control; a growing conflict between warlords and ethnic communities; a fractured opponent; a distracted international community; and huge humanitarian need.

Will the war restart? The killing and the succumbing has started already, with a violent rebel motion in the Kasai region inspiring a brutal government reply that contribute to mass displacement. Cholera and other illness surge through vulnerable populations. The United Nation deployment in the DRC suffers increasing attacks, with the deaths of 14 peacekeepers in December, the worst single loss suffered by the organisation since 1993.

Elections are due to be held in December, though many doubt they will take place. The polls are a chance to arrest the slide of one of Africa’s most important states back into even greater poverty and conflict. Few are optimistic.


A roadside checkpoint in Herat, Afghanistan. Photo: Jalil Rezayee/ EPA

Afghanistan has not known peace since the mid-1 970 s. The present conflict, which pits the Taliban and other Islamist extremists against the government in Kabul, started in 2001 with the US-led invasion that followed the 9/11 assaults. The US has supported, first President Hamid Karzai and then his successor, Ashraf Ghani, with huge amounts of military and other aid. More than 2,000 US soldiers have died, 10 times as many Afghan soldiers, and at the least 30,000 civilians. Yet the Taliban today is active in more than two-thirds of Afghanistan’s administrative districts, though it controls fewer than one in 20. In 2015, the movement temporarily confiscated northern the city of Kunduz.

Why has the war lasted so long? One reason is strategic mistakes made by the US and allies in the immediate years after the 2001 invasion. The effort in Afghanistan was poorly resourced and misdirected. Missed early opportunities to construct a stable political settlement and score relatively easy military victories demonstrated expensive.

Another key factor is the involvement of regional powers, principally Pakistan. Islamabad assures having a friendly government in Kabul as critical to its strategic security and has backed the Taliban as a proxy, logistic aid and a safe haven to leaders.

But there are other reasons. Almost all areas where support for the Taliban is high are dominated by the Pashtun ethnic group, especially those controlled by certain tribes. Opium-growing zones are also prominent. It is striking how closely the map of Taliban influence today mirrors that of 20 years ago, when the movement surged to power. Then, as now, Afghanistan’s reputation as the” graveyard of empires” rests on solid, if fractured, ground.


A rally in Ukraine against Russian aggression. Photograph: Gleb Garanich/ Reuters

In February, it was four years since Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, annexed Crimea and helped provoke a insurrection in the industrial east of Ukraine,” a former’ Soviet republic” independent since 1991 that lies on one of the greatest culture and linguistic fracture lines in the world today.

Thousands- fighters and civilians -have died. Late last year, aid agencies warned that 4.4 million people have been directly affected by the continuing hostilities, while 3.8 million need urgent assistance.

The war’s roots lie in 2013, when tens of thousands protested in Kievand elsewhere, accusing the then government of backtracking on plans to sign a EU trade deal following pressure from the Kremlin. The government employed violence against protesters, who ousted President Viktor Yanukovychthe following year. This led to unrest in Russophone areas in east and south Ukraine. Fighting between government forces-out and Russia-backed separatists continued into 2015, with Moscow denying Kiev’s claims that it was sending troops and heavy weapons to the region.

The” Minsk arrangement” stipulated a ceasefire and a special constitutional status for the rebel-held provinces of the Donbass region, which would reintegrate into Ukraine and hold elections. None of that has come into consequence and the number of ceasefire violations operates into the thousands. More than 100 Ukrainian soldiers were killed in the Donbass region last year, according to official figures. A squalid but deadly conflict has ground on since on the very perimeters of Europe, receiving ever less attention from the international community.

Why has the war lasted so long? Moscow has little intention of abandoning hard-won gains, despite pressure from economics sanctions. Europe and the US do not want to risk a confrontation. Sentiments within the Ukraine are as polarised as ever. Dubbed an “invisible” or “frozen” conflict, there is little sign of any shifting that might breach the deadlock.

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Mass protests force Ethiopia to free opposition leader

Bekele Gerba and seven other political figures suddenly cleared of charges and let out of jail after being arrested in 2015

Jacob Zuma defies order from South Africa’s ANC to resign

President given 48 -hour ultimatum by ruling party to stand down or face being stripped of his office