The World Today for June 03, 2024

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The Inheritance

NAMIBIA

The southwest African country of Namibia has long been isolated geographically and politically. A former German colony that came under a White-minority government under South African control after World War I, Namibia only gained its independence in 1990.

Now, however, things here are changing fast.

As MercoPress wrote recently, Namibia is on track to receive billions of dollars in exchange for allowing oil drilling projects as Chevron, the China National Offshore Oil Corporation, the Hess Corporation, Total, Shell, and ExxonMobil hunt for new supplies outside the volatile Middle East and Russia.

“Oil companies are flocking to Namibia,” wrote Reuters.

These oil deposits are both offshore and in areas like the Kavango Basin, explained Upstream, heralding massive revenues to help the poor country – while also triggering environmental concerns. According to studies cited in the Namibian Sun, however, the country will likely benefit more than suffer from these riches – so long as officials carefully manage the industry and their newfound wealth.

Namibia’s general election set for November is therefore one of the most important in the country’s memory. Due to the death of 82-year-old President Hage Geingob in February, as the Washington Post reported, Namibian voters have a chance to install a new government to manage their potential prosperity, too.

Vice President Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah will represent the South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO), the freedom-fighter group that fought for independence against South Africa, wrote the African Center for Strategic Studies. She would be the country’s first elected female leader if she wins.

Nandi-Ndaitwah has appealed to voters’ sense of nostalgia about SWAPO’s fight for independence, reported Xinhua. She can also rightly point to freedom of speech, an independent judiciary, and other signs of good government that have developed under SWAPO’s watch.

But her rival, Panduleni Itula of the Independent Patriots for Change party, is expected to give Nandi-Ndaitwah a run for her money because SWAPO’s share of the vote has been declining in recent years. While concerns about corruption are driving the decline, the country’s political system has also become healthier and more diverse. SWAPO has run the country for 34 years.

Itula can exploit how the country’s economy has been stagnant as oil companies prepare to drill, added Deutsche Welle. Unemployment in Namibia is 34 percent, while youth unemployment is 48 percent. The country is the second-most unequal country in the world, wrote AllAfrica.com.

The pressure between the two candidates is building. SWAPO leaders recently accused the European Union of seeking to meddle in the election when bloc officials recently met with Itula, for example, noted the Africa Report.

It was just lunch, Itula’s supporters said. That’s politics in a free society, they add.

And free it is, compared to many other countries on the continent.

For example, after Geingob died, his successor, interim President Nangolo Mbumba, took the helm. Instead of trying to stay on, he said at his swearing-in in February: “I am not going to be around for the elections, so don’t panic.”

THE WORLD, BRIEFLY

A Small Pinprick of Light

ISRAEL/ GAZA STRIP

Israel agreed to US President Joe Biden’s plan to end the war in the Gaza Strip, according to a senior aide of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, an announcement that comes amid international and domestic pressure to end the eight-month-long war in Gaza, NBC News reported.

Netanyahu’s chief foreign policy adviser, Ophir Falk, said in an interview over the weekend that Israel was not rejecting a three-part plan that would lead to a complete ceasefire in Gaza and see the release of all hostages taken there following Hamas’s attack on Oct. 7.

However, he added that it was “not a good deal.”

Falk’s comments came days after Biden claimed Friday that Israel proposed the plan – even though the deal is yet to be finalized and Israel’s official position on the agreement remains unclear.

Initially, Netanyahu appeared to undermine the plan, saying that a permanent ceasefire is a “non-starter” until Israel’s long-standing conditions are met: Destroying Hamas’ military and governance capabilities, freeing all the hostages, and ensuring Gaza no longer poses a threat.

Observers said the US proposal shifts from the total destruction of Hamas to significantly degrading its capabilities to prevent large-scale attacks on Israel.

The plan’s first phase includes a six-week ceasefire in the Palestinian enclave, the withdrawal of Israeli forces, and the release of women and children held hostage. The second part of the agreement envisions the release of all living hostages in exchange for the release of Palestinians imprisoned in Israel, which will then be followed by extensive reconstruction in Gaza and the return of deceased hostages as part of the final phase.

The proposed deal received international support, including from Qatar, Egypt and the US, which have been mediating the talks and called on Hamas and Israel to finalize the agreement, the Voice of America added.

A Hamas official also claimed that the group “views positively what was included in US President Joe Biden’s speech.”

However, far-right factions in Netanyahu’s ruling coalition reacted strongly to Biden’s proposal: Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir both threatened to leave the government if Netanyahu agreed to the plan, denouncing it as a “victory for terrorism” and “absolute defeat,” the Telegraph noted.

In contrast, Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid criticized Netanyahu’s coalition partners and pledged support to the prime minister if he accepts the deal, advocating for national security over coalition pressures.

Meanwhile, public pressure within Israel is mounting for a ceasefire: More than 120,000 people demonstrated in Tel Aviv and other cities over the weekend urging the government to accept a ceasefire and bring the hostages home. They also called on Netanyahu to resign and for early elections, the Times of Israel reported.

A Political Slap

SOUTH AFRICA

The African National Congress (ANC) party lost its majority in parliament for the first time in 30 years following a historic election that will likely see South Africa change its political direction for the first time since the end of apartheid in 1994, the Associated Press reported.

The election commission said the ANC won more than 40 percent of the vote, a massive drop from the majority it won in the 1994 elections that brought it to power under Nelson Mandela, and significantly down from the 57 percent of the vote won only in 2019. This delivered for the ANC 159 seats out of 400 in the country’s National Assembly, down from 230 before.

Meanwhile, the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) came in second with 21.8 percent of the vote, while the newly formed uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) party of former President Jacob Zuma – who has turned against the ANC – won at least 14 percent.

More than 50 parties participated in the polls, with a majority of them only securing a small share of the vote.

Political analysts said the results showed that many voters have been disappointed by the ANC and its policies over its decades-long rule. South Africa continues to struggle with poverty and inequality, including an unemployment rate of 32 percent that disproportionately affects Black people – who make up 80 percent of the population.

Opposition parties hailed the results, with some saying the ANC’s “entitlement of being the sole dominant party” was over.

While the ANC remains the largest party in parliament, it will need to form a coalition with other parties or find partners to be able to remain in government and reelect President Cyril Ramaphosa for a second and final term. Of the result, Ramaphosa said, “Our people have spoken … whether we like it or not,” while indicating he did not intend to quit, Sky News reported. One ANC official called the result “nothing to celebrate”.

Talks have begun to establish a coalition government and must deliver before a two-week deadline. Speculation about which parties will make up the next coalition is rife, leaving investors in particular in a state of limbo, Bloomberg reported.

The DA said it is open to discussion with the ANC, while MK claimed it would agree to a coalition if Ramaphosa is removed as ANC leader and president.

Analysts said an ANC-DA coalition would be more welcome to foreign investors because of the DA’s pro-business stance, including loosening labor laws and ending racial quota systems for employers, according to Reuters.

The Split

NEW ZEALAND

Thousands of people took to the streets of New Zealand over the past week to protest against the center-right government’s policies, which they say are dismantling Indigenous rights, the BBC reported.

The demonstrations – known as “hikoi” – took place Thursday in a number of cities, including Wellington and Auckland, with participants voicing concerns over policies of the ruling coalition of Prime Minister Chris Luxon since it took power last October.

These were the second such protests against the new government over complaints that officials are attempting to reverse policies benefiting Māoris, such as disbanding a new entity aimed at improving health services for Indigenous people.

Thursday’s protests also came as the governing coalition unveiled its first budget, which includes tax cuts especially hitting housing and conservation, the Australia Broadcasting Corporation noted.

While the opposition Labor Party warned that the budget proposal did not deliver enough in terms of health and education, Finance Minister Nicola Willis dismissed criticism that the plan will cut funding to programs that benefited Māoris.

The new coalition has previously rejected criticism that they seek to divide the country along race.

Even so, the Māori Party – one of the six parties in parliament – issued a Declaration of Political Independence last week and announced it would begin setting up a separate legislature for the Māori.

The party claimed its moves are aimed at transforming the country into a nation that respects the sovereignty of Indigenous people “and creates a safe home for all peoples.”

According to Statistics New Zealand, the Māori make up about 17 percent of the population.

However, they face significant disadvantages compared to the general population in areas such as health outcomes, household income, education levels, incarceration rates and mortality rates, including a seven-year gap in life expectancy, the BBC said.

DISCOVERIES

Whales Just Want To Have Fun

For the past five years, young killer whales – or orcas – have been attacking boats and other vessels along the waters off the coast of Spain, Portugal, France and Morocco.

Authorities and scientists have documented more than 673 attacks since they started recording them in 2020, including the sinking of at least five sailboats and two fishing boats

The phenomenon has sparked theories about what’s causing these incidents, with one suggesting they are revenge attacks led by a grieving orca mother.

But marine researchers suggested that the cause is actually more mundane: The teenagers are bored, USA Today reported.

Last month, an international group of orca researchers released a report explaining why this phenomenon is happening and how mariners can avoid these juvenile delinquents.

“It starts in the spring, goes way off the charts in the summer and goes away in fall,” said Naomi Rose, a scientist who was part of the working group. “That’s because the whales and boats are in the same area at the same time.”

Rose and her colleagues explained that these young whales – belonging to a group of Iberian orcas – are interacting with the vessels because it’s an enriching experience for them. They noted that the sea is a “very boring place” for the youngsters, adding that the young whales are usually “more playful and courageous in approaching boats.”

The team suspected that attacking the boats – especially the rudders – has become a fad among the orcas, as killer whale groups often copy each other’s behavior.

“Obviously, they don’t understand that that play can mean harm to the boats,” said Alexandre Zerbini, another author of the report.

The scientists theorized that this playful behavior emerged from a series of factors, the main one being the whale’s main prey, the Bluefin tuna, seeing a resurgence around those waters.

Zerbini hinted that this food abundance means the killer whales “have time on their hands” to kill, instead of foraging.

While it’s unclear when the fad will die out, the research group proposed a few measures to avoid these encounters, such as changing the appearance of the rudder – or simply staying out of those areas where the Iberian orcas hang out.

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