- Relations between Botswana and Zimbabwe are reported to be deteriorating as the Batswana government continues to construct an electric fence along the two countries' border. Botswana is fencing out the increasing numbers of Zimbabweans fleeing their country's economic and political collapse.
The Zimbabwean government has claimed that "Botswana is trying to create another Gaza Strip" by constructing an electric fence, according to Zimbabwe's High Commissioner to Botswana, Phelekeza Mphoko. In Harare, the 2.4 metre high fence has caused protest and frustration, as it is seen as a symbol of the growing stigmatisation of Zimbabweans.
Botswana is faced with a major immigration problem because of the Zimbabwean crisis. The country's immigration officers are repatriating at least 2,500 illegal Zimbabweans a month, according to the Batswana independent newspaper 'Mmegi'. The electric fence is widely seen as a response to the growing problem of illegal immigration to Botswana, one of Africa's richest countries.
Another reason is however given by Botswana's authorities, which are referring to the repeated spread of the foot-and-mouth disease from Zimbabwe. Each time Batswana herds are infected with the disease, export markets for Botswana's successful meat industry are closing, costing the country millions of US dollars.
The electric fence, Batswana authorities hold, is mainly constructed to keep wildlife and livestock separated. The 500 kilometre fence effectively will stop interaction between Batswana and Zimbabwean cattle herds, thus stopping foot-and-mouth infections on common pastures.
These Batswana arguments are however not accepted in Zimbabwe, which is officially objecting to the construction of the fence. Also Zimbabwean citizens are reported to be provoked by the measures from their rich, southern neighbours and Batswana immigration officers are reporting increasing acts of sabotage from the Zimbabwean side, including the removal of parts of the fence.
Zimbabweans have found allies in the region's environmentalists, calling the fence a "futile and bizarre move." While other countries in the region are creating transnational parks and game reserves, the Batswana fence will be an obstacle to the free movement and reproduction of wildlife in the zone. Further, ecologists hold, much of the region's wildlife anyhow carries the foot-and-mouth disease.
The political implications of the fence are an even more soured relationship between Harare and Gaborone. Botswana, as all countries in the region, has already suffered from the economical collapse caused by Zimbabwe's political crisis.
Botswana's President Festus Mogae, however, has been one of very few African leaders to speak openly out against the policies of his Zimbabwean counterpart, Robert Mugabe. Relations therefore already were cool before Botswana started building its new "protection shield" on the Zimbabwean border.
For Zimbabweans, the Batswana fence is just another negative consequence of their country's collapse. With the growing influx of Zimbabwean immigrants in the region - Botswana authorities alone estimate up to 100,000 Zimbabweans live in the country illegally - they are increasingly stigmatised in neighbouring countries.
Government officials in Botswana have blamed Zimbabweans for robbing houses and harassing children. Zimbabweans are increasingly met with the same attitudes in South Africa and other neighbour countries, where xenophobia is reported to be on the rise. Most Southern Africans however principally question their governments' inability to address the political problems in Zimbabwe.
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.