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DR Congo – Indigenous Land Crisis

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Bambuti people face conflicts with rebel groups, extractive industries and conservation initiatives, loosing large swathes of land.

Idjwi island, situated in the middle of Lake Kivu, has for the large part been spared from the violence that has persisted across DR Congo. However the ‘indigenous’ Bambuti are being pushed aside for the ethnic Bantu who now comprise around 95% of the islands population of 280,000.

The process started in the 1980s as the authority figures for the Bahayu Bantu people expelled the Bambuti from the forests and deprived them of their primary means of livelihood and subsistence. These groups, like many others who are facing similar struggles worldwide, are largely hunter gatherers and practice shifting cultivation with no formal land titles.

The chief of the Idjwi Bambuti, Charles Livingstone, said “we are no more than 7000 on the island, relocated on uncultivable land and scattered on the coast in makeshift camps on the fringe of villages, in total destitution,” reported UK-based the Independent.

Adolphine Byaywuwa Muley, the head of a Bambuti women empowerment group said that South Kivu is a “province where there are a lot of land issues, land disputes everywhere, so you are told nothing can be done.”

However, Gervais Rubenga Ntawenderundi, who is a Bantu customary chief in the north of Idjwi said that there were “no problems on the islands between the two ethnic groups…the pygmies have never been driven out of the forest and have always lived near villages in this way.”

The DR Congo national parliament discussed a law to protect Bambuti rights in 2007 but as of yet there has been no progress or a vote on the proposed bill.

Today, according to the Independent, many Bambuti work for landowners and are treated with contempt, often earning much less than other workers, and have to resort to selling handicrafts to supplement their income.

Some have settled in camps; in Kagorwa camp around 300 were resettled from the Nyamusisi forest, but in their new location crops will not grow and many suffer from malnourishment.

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Displaced Mbuti childrenCC

According to the International Working Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) there are four main groups in DR Congo; the Bambuti (Mbuti), the Baka, the east Batwa and the west Batwa. The label often used to described them collectively, pygmies, is often considered to be discriminatory. Their exact numbers are unknown but are thought to be between 600,000 and 2 million.

Across the country many have lost their land and been taken as bonded labour for Banti landlords, and such dynamics are particularly evident in North Kivu and South Kivu. In the other provinces of Orientale, Equateur and Bandundu, indigenous groups are facing widespread displacement for industrial development.

The forests in DR Congo represent the second largest forest basin in the world, but the same area contains an abundance of mineral resources and the presence of numerous factionalised rebel groups.

“The state is itself a threat to our forests: it makes a complete mess of things by handing out timber licences. It gives them to anyone willing to pay, and we see these people come and cut down our trees with impunity. They cut down our medicinal trees and, with them, the bark and fruits used for our medical treatments. They cut down our caterpillar trees, our oil trees,” said Irangi, who is a member of the Mbuti Pygmies in Itombwe, reported the Guardian.

In 2006 the Congolese government created the Itombwe nature reserve facilitated by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS); all human activity was forbidden in an area over 15,000 square km.

Similarly in Virunga National Park, the oldest in Africa, the Bambuti are forbidden from hunting or living inside the boundaries and are caught between both park rangers and armed groups, reported the Inter Press Service.

In the 1980s in the Kahuzi-Biega national park nearly 6000 indigenous people were moved from their villages and left to make a living outside of the forest. Many of these groups now live in precarious conditions – deprived of traditional livelihood sources and forms of religious and social identity, they often work as manual labourers.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

DR CONGO: Rebel Groups Torment Residents
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Volume. 53, Issue. 10, Pp. 21184A–21184C

DR CONGO: ADF & FDLR Violence
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Volume. 53, Issue. 9, Pp. 21146C–21147B

DR CONGO: Humanitarian Concerns
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Volume 53, Issue. 6, Pp. 21040A–21040C

Subscribe to the Africa Research Bulletin today.

Nigeria – Aviation Woes

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Airports close and airlines suspend flights as the aviation sector struggles in a challenging environment.

On December 21st passengers across the country were left stranded after Arik Air, the largest airline in the country, suspended services due to action by unions, including the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), the Air Transport Senior Staff Services Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) and the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE).

The protests related to arrears in salaries amounting around seven months and the perceived anti-labour direction of policymaking. The Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) brokered a meeting with Arik Air meeting the following day in which strike action was shelved, reported This Day.

Additional capacity was allocated afterwards from both Lagos and Abuja to destinations such as Enugu, Asaba, Owerri, Port Harcourt, Benin, Warri, Uyo, Yola and others to enable many of the Arik customers to get to their destinations.

Some of the placards placed around Arik counters read: ‘ARIK owes staff seven months salaries, defaults in taxes and other statutory deductions, criminalises trade unionism and union membership.”

Other airlines such as Air Peace, First Nation, Med-View, Dana Air, Overland and Azman were unable to take the spillover from Arik due to low capacity; according to Lagos-based the Guardian there was a 100% hike in ticket fares followed the strike action as passengers scrambled for available seats.

In Lagos, outside the Arik Headquarters, company officials from the Nigerian Lagos Congress (NLC) and the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) barricaded the main entrance, causing traffic problems on the airports access road.

There were reports later on January 6th that aggrieved passengers had attacked staff at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, as a number of flights were again rescheduled and some cancelled, reported Daily Trust.

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CC – 2014

It is reported that Arik Air owes in the region of Naira (N) 13bn to the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and N6bn to the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA). The airline is also reportedly indebted to fuel supplies and ground handlers.

The Spokesman for Arik Air, Banji Ola, in his response to the allegations said the organisation was “disappointed” by the actions of the unions to “ambush and disrupt the operations.”

Meanwhile, the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja is to close for six weeks from February to March 2017 for repairs, which will involve almost total reconstruction of the badly damaged runway. The full construction works are expected to take six months, but the middle section of runway will be unusable for 6 weeks, reported the Premium Times.

President Muhammadu Buhari reportedly commenced the work through an emergency procurement procedure, due to the centrality of Abuja to the country. Passengers have been directed to use Kaduna airport as an alternative during this period.

Passengers will travel in bus shuttles, guarded by security provided by the government; the stretch of road from Kaduna airport to Abuja has seen a number of kidnapping incidents over the last few years.

A number of foreign airlines, however, have considered suspending services after the decision to close the Abuja airport, as the alternative in Kaduna was deemed unsafe for foreigners. However, Minister for Aviation Hadi Sirika said that Kaduna was preferable to alternatives such as Ilorin or Minna as it was able to cater for larger aircraft. Sirikia assured that the safety of passengers would be the top priority.

Additionally the oldest domestic carrier in the country, Aero Contractors, has resumed operations after a suspension of four months, according to a report from the Daily Trust. Operations started again on December 23rd with flights to Lagos, Port Harcourt and Warri.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin today:

NIGERIA: Darker Days
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 9, Pp. 21418B–21420A

AIRPORTS AND SERVICES: Nigeria
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 9, Pp. 21432A–21433C

NIGERIA: Recession and ‘Record’ Low Foreign Investment
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 8, Pp. 21384C–21386C

Subscribe to the Africa Research Bulletin today

Kenya – Mau Mau Veterans Seek Compensation

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Victims of Mau Mau rebellion seek considerable reparations from the British government.

Victims of violence and atrocities during the British colonial rule of Kenya have called for action to boycott against next year’s August election unless the UK government pays significant sums of reparations.

Many veterans who fought against white settlers and the British army during the Mau Mau rebellion claim they have never been compensated. However, in 2013 the British government did pay £20m to a group of 5000 survivors.

The veterans have said that believe they deserve a share of the reparations for the damage colonial rule did to the country, both at the time and subsequently. The figures that were previously counted, they claim, were based on census data from the 1940s and do not reflect that the population is now much greater.

The Chairman of a group representing the veterans, Field Marshall Ngacha Karani, said that the Kenyan government should be demanding 400 trillion Kenyan shillings – or £4 trillion; the UKs annual GDP is in the region of £4trn.

In an interview with Kenya’s Standard newspaper, 90-year-old freedom fighter Faith Wanjiru Wachira recalled how she risked her life to help feed and clothe Mau Mau rebels deep inside the Mount Kenya forest.

“It pains me that I fought for land, but I ended up without any. I am hopeful that one day, the government will consider my struggle in ensuring that Kenya attained independence and reward me with land,” she said.

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Mau Mau Memorial Statue – CC 2015

The Mau Mau rebellion, which took place between 1952 and 1960, remains one of the more controversial episodes of Britain’s colonial history.

The uprising involved thousands of mainly ethnic Kikuyu groups who revolted against British rule, economic deprivation and dispossession of their agricultural homelands in the north of the country.

To stem the unrest the Kenyan and British colonial authorities declared a state of emergency and rounded up more than one million Kikuyu into camps, which historians now see as essentially concentration camps – many thousands died.

Currently there is a class action suit making its way through the British courts which involves more than 8000 claimants. This is in addition to another case in 2013.

According to a report by Kenya’s Citizen TV, the group representing the Mau Mau veterans is urging representatives to travel throughout the country to mobilise Kenyans to boycott the election due to be held on August 8th 2017.

(The Independent 14/12)

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

KENYA – UK: Historic Mau-Mau Ruling
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 49, Issue. 10, Pp. 19469c-19470c.

KENYA–UK: Mau Mau Veterans Issue Writ
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 43, Issue. 10, Pp. 16841A–16841B

Mau Mau Leader Honoured
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 44, Issue. 2, Pp. 16980C

Subscribe to the Africa Research Bulletin today.

Nigeria – Cocoa Crop in Decline

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Many claim that the once central industry is now the most neglected, while others eye the opportunities.

The decline in the cultivation of the crop is reportedly to due with long growing periods and impatience among the younger generation, according to President of the Federation of Agricultural Commodity Associations of Nigeria (FACAN), Victor Iyama, who was speaking at the 2nd Daily Trust Agricultural Conference in Abuja on December 15th.

“It’s not four to six months, it is up to five years minimum but the beauty is that it can last for 70 years,” he said, adding that chocolate production generated large sums of money; out of a $120bn cocoa economy only around $15bn goes to products other than chocolate.

Iyama noted that cocoa was the second largest foreign exchange earner, next only to oil, adding that 29 states in the country can produce the crop, reported the Daily Trust.

According to Lagos-based the Guardian, a number of stakeholders in the Nigerian industry have said that it has remained the most neglected sector of the economy despite at the same time being one of the most viable industries in the world. Setbacks include the high cost of borrowing, deregulation and inconsistent government policy.

CEO of FTN Cocoa Processors Plc, Akin Laoye, explained that the deregulated environment is impeding the growth of the processing sector, adding that the cocoa sector needs some degree of regulation.

“To deepen Nigeria’s industrial base, it is counter productive to allow agricultural raw materials to be exported without adding value. Value addition will grow the industrial sector, generate employment, and enhance value of the revenue from export.” Laoye also urged government to find a lasting solution to tackle the ongoing recession, reported the Guardian.

The Minister for Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, on December 15th said that Nigeria used to be a leading cocoa exported but has since fallen to seventh among exporting countries exporting 27.5m tonnes annually, in comparison to first place Cote D’Ivoire with an annual export volume of 1.75bn tonnes, reported This Day.

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CC 2015.

On December 7th AgWeb reported that the Nigerian government was preparing to capitalise the state owned Bank of Agriculture with Naira (N) 1trn (US$3.2bn) to boost the agricultural sector. “We are looking at 25 million farmers” as stakeholders or depositors, Minister Ogbeh said.

From November 8-10th a regional symposium focusing on the next generation of cocoa research for West and Central Africa was held at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Ibadan, Oyo State.

The symposium drew leaders from across the southwestern part of the country, the predominant area for the cultivation of cocoa, such as Ife, Oyo, Osum, Ogun, Cross River and Ondo states. The symposium drew leaders alongside academics and industry representatives to discuss research priorities and alliances to take advantage of the potential of cocoa.

According to Executive Director of the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN), O. Olubamiwa, the Regional Cocoa Symposium is the first of its kind in Africa. “It is happening in West Africa—the hub of global cocoa production. It will highlight the diverse roles of cocoa in improving farmers’ livelihood. It is also a forum for stakeholders to synthesise ideas on sustainable cocoa production,” reported the Guardian.

However, other reports have suggested that cocoa cultivation in Ondo state appears to be waning, despite having what could mildly be described as comparative advantage. Farmers in the state accused the state government of failing to implement practical policies and programmes.

One of the cocoa farmers in Akure, the state capital, Olorunfemi Ashagi asserted that one major problem facing the growth of cocoa is finance. Another farmer expressed fear that cocoa farming in the state may soon go into extinction, as many of the young men engaged in it are increasingly to alternative livelihood opportunities, reported Leadership.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

COCOA: Côte d’Ivoire
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 7, Pp. 21366A–21366C

NIGERIA: Recession and ‘Record’ Low Foreign Investment
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 8, Pp.21384C–21386C

COCOA: Ghana
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 2, Pp. 21184A–21184B

Subscribe to the Africa Research Bulletin today.

Gambia – A Turning Point

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Longtime ruler initially concedes and then backtracks on acceptance of historic election result. 

The results of the recent election on December 1st saw 22-year leader Yahya Jammeh ousted and debates surrounding his prosecution have become central topics of discussion. His regime has been accused of arresting many activists, journalists and opposition members.

President-elect Adama Barrow, who heads a coalition of parties, told Al Jazeera that a truth and reconciliation commission would be established to look at human rights abuses committed during Jammeh’s rule, after which the government will file a case at the International Criminal Court (ICC). “It is a matter of justice. People should not fear. The process will be fair and will not pinpoint anyone,” he said.

The new President-Elect, however, is understandably cautious, as the country now faces a two-month transition period and rumours have abounded that Jammeh could try to force a coup in an act of self-preservation. The heads of the army and police services, however, have declared their support for the new coalition.

Jammeh is reportedly currently hiding in his villa in his hometown of Kanilai. His paramilitary hit squad known as the ‘Junglers’ is also based near Kanilai – the group is thought to be responsible for a number of high profile killings, such as of newspaper editor Deyda Hydara in 2004.

The incoming coalition has stated that it intends to compensate Gambians for their loss of lands, according to the leader of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), Omar Jallow, part of the new coalition. Political prisoners were also released, with around 31 so far released from Mile 2 Central Prison near Banjul.

Among the first group freed was Ousainou Darboe, the 68-year-old leader of the United Democratic Party (UDP), who founded the opposition party in 1996 and is often described as “the Mandela of the Gambia” for his two decades of struggle against Jammeh.

Another legacy of Jammeh’s rule has been divisions among ethnic groups, particularly between the Jola tribe and the Mandinka, Fulani and Wolof. Jammeh held fears that he would be toppled by the majority Mandinka, which make up around 33% of the population, and he resorted to appointing his own chiefs, reported Al Jazeera.

Gamcel sponsored poster promoting Jammeh

Gamcel sponsored poster promoting Jammeh – CC

Barrow told RFI in an exclusive interview that what was needed was “an overhaul of basically everything in the government.” According to Deutschewelle Barrow has also stated that he intends to keep Gambia in the controversial ICC. Barrow is a real estate CEO and a newcomer to the political scene, selected by a coalition of seven opposition parties.

Barrow won 54.54% while Jammeh took 36.66% of the vote. However, after the initial optimism, anxiety returned as Jammeh decided in a TV interview on December 9th, to annul the poll result citing ‘irregularities’, just over a week after conceding to the coalition.

“I accepted the results then, believing that what was presented was the will of you the Gambian people… I made it clear that I will never cheat in anything… in the same way also, I will never accept being cheated by anyone,” Jammeh said.

Jammeh, in the interview, call for a re-run, recommending new transparent elections mediated by an independent electoral commission. Meanwhile the head of the coalition team Mai Ahmed Fatty said, “We are working round the clock to restore sanity. The world is with us.”

The US State Department dismissed the reversal of President Jammeh’s concession speech as “null and void,” while urging the military and other national institutions to ensure a peaceful transfer of power, reported the East African.

Jammeh had declared the country an Islamic Republic in 2015, has been accused of a string of rights abuses, and had said that with the ‘will of God’ he could rule for a billion years, reported Deutschewelle.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

THE GAMBIA: Interior Minister Replaced
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 9, Pp. 21136C–21137A

THE GAMBIA: Darboe Jailed
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 7, Pp. 21071A–21071C

THE GAMBIA: Dozens More Arrested
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 5, Pp. 21005C–21006B

Subscribe to the Africa Research Bulletin today. 

Burundi – Presidential Term Limits

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Reports suggest the President is taking steps to ensure an extension to his rule, prompting concerns of further violence. 

President Pierre Nkurunzia has been pushing a political agenda to remove a key Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement that limits Presidential terms, which has helped to end 12 years of civil war.

Nkurunziza is also stalling on the East African Community (EAC)-led mediation process, which started in July 2015 but has yet to make any significant progress. The Burundian government has boycotted talks stating that some stakeholders should be excluded.

According to a report by the International Crisis Group (ICG) entitled ‘the African Union and the Burundi Crisis: Ambition versus Realitythe government is seeking to change term limits, possibly by December.

Justin Nzoyisaba, chairman of the Inter-Burundi Dialogue Commission, was quoted in August as saying the views so far collected across the country favoured the removal of term limits.

President Nkurunziza’s decision to stand for a third term sparked civil unrest that has caused the death of hundreds and forced thousands to flee to neighbouring countries. The ICG says the government has realised that keeping casualties to a minimum limits scrutiny.

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President Nkurunziza with AMISOM commander General Silas Ntigurirwa in 2014 – CC

Meanwhile the United Nations (UN) envoy on conflict convention said that the international community and Burundi would find common ground for the deployment of UN police officers through continued dialogue.

“Our discussions were constructive and I’m confident that with continuous engagement and political will, we will find common ground as a basis for moving forward with the implementation of the resolution,” said Jamal Benomar, the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General for Conflict Prevention.

UN Security Council Resolution 2303, adopted on July 29th 2016, authorised up to 228 UN police officers to be deployed in the capital Bujumbura and throughout Burundi for one year.

Benomar said he had held various meetings with the Government and other stakeholders, as well as with former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa, the facilitator of the EAC-led dialogue.

However the Burundian authorities have rejected Benomar as a proposed mediator and they sent a letter to the UN to ask for his replacement.

On November 26th thousands of demonstrators marched in Bujumbura to protest against Belgium and the UN Commission, which is conducting an inquiry into human rights violations. The protestors were reportedly singing songs in support of President Nkurunziza.

The situation is ongoing and many commentators have expressed concern that the extension to term limits and the continued boycott of international mediation will prompt further violence and state repression.

(The East African 5/11; PANA, New York 9/11; RFI 15, 27/11)

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

BURUNDI: ICC Withdrawal
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 10, Pp. 21182B–21183A

BURUNDI: Looming Risk of Genocide
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 9, Pp. 21146A–21146B

BURUNDI: UN Police Deployment
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 7, Pp. 21108A–21108C

Subscribe to the Africa Research Bulletin today.

Mozambique – Debt Troubles Continue

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The IMF commends recent efforts but states that financial support will not resume until debt levels are made sustainable.

The Deputy Director of the Africa Department of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), David Owen, said on November 14th that Mozambique had taken promising steps to deal with hidden debts that have impacted heavily on the economy.

The debts relate to loans of over US$1.1bn from Credit Suisse and Russian bank VTB to quasi-public firms Proindicus, Mozambique Asset Management (MAM) and the Mozambique Tuna Company (Ematum), under then President Armando Guebuza in 2013/14.

The IMF, during a mission visit from September 22-29th, praised the “significant tightening of macro-economic policy,” and the raise in interest rates announced by the Bank of Mozambique in October, which had led to the stabilisation of the exchange rate, reported AIM.

However the head of the mission Michel Lazare said that resumption of financial support was still a long way off.  “The authorities have requested the Fund to resume discussions on financial support as soon as possible. A solid track record of implementation of sound macroeconomic policies and an effective initiation of the audit process in the near term would help to create the conditions for a possible resumption of program discussions with the IMF,” Lazare said.

Lazare continued by stating that Mozambique “is facing a challenging economic environment”, with economic growth now in decline. The forecast growth for this year is 3.7% in 2016, down from 6.6% in 2015, which is “is significantly below levels observed in recent years.”

“At the same time, a significant decline in imports has been more than offset by a weakening of exports, foreign direct investment, and donor financing…This has maintained pressure on international reserves, which have continued to decline,” Lazare added, reported AIM.

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Ex-President Armando Guebuza – CC 2012

However more than half of the secret loans related to Ematum and maritime security have never been explained. According to Africa Confidential, around $900m was passed on to companies owned by the ruling Frelimo elite for the purchase of assault rifles, armoured cars and other weapons from Israel, for use in the war against Renamo, reported UK-based Mozambique News Reports.

There have also been accusations that Frelimo officials have wasted huge sums on setting up a shipbuilding industry, for which little work had been completed. Though many of the weapons seem to have been bought by companies owned by private individuals, these companies are linked to the three implicated in the debt scandal. Many of the funds were placed in offshore bank accounts to act as collateral for Frelimo-owned companies.

Two banks involved in the deals, Crédit Suisse and Russia’s VTB Group are under investigation by authorities in the UK and Switzerland.

The two main political parties remain at loggerheads as the country continues to be in crisis. Frelimo, which has held power since independence from Portugal in 1975, is fighting to maintain its grip on the country. In the wake of the scandal economic and political unrest troubles have only worsened, reported Africa Confidential.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

Mozambique – Price Falls Lead To Closures
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.53, Issue. 8, Pp. 21404A

MOZAMBIQUE: Liquidity Problems
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.53, Issue. 5, Pp. 21289A–21290C

MOZAMBIQUE: Economic Update
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.53, Issue. 4, Pp. 21231A–21233C

Subscribe to the Africa Research Bulletin today.