Monday, April 02, 2007
Finally, someone has decided what to with the 20 storey concrete skeleton of the 4 Seasons Hotel, which had loomed over Maputo's north-east corner for more than a generation.
They blew it up. Very neatly and properly, with the public watching from a safe distance, and cleanup teams standing by to wipe up the enormous pile of dust release. A charming change from the Paiol (arms dump - see below). One of my Mozambican colleagues (a young, black, switched-on professional) said beforehand "don't worry - nothing will go wrong - they got the americans in to do it." Don't know if this is actually true, but his comment says a lot.
A week after the explosions, and the death toll is reported as 128 civilians and an unrevealed number of military personnel - the rumour is 85. Another 500 people were injured, and several hundred houses destroyed.
All this in one of the poorer outskirts of Maputo, so taking into account the average family size, perhaps 10,000 people will be pushed across the line between "keeping it together" and desperation. One of the households next to Nina, lost their mother to a shell which came through the wall. Another woman spoke of her baby being dashed from her back - she turned around and it was already dead. Moments later, another piece of shrapnel sliced her husband's legs off. She did not know where the rest of her family were.
And the government? A shameful (or perhaps shameless) continuation of business as usual....
- NO-ONE in the government has said sorry or accepted the blame
- NO-ONE has resigned
- NO-ONE has confirmed whether or not any compensation will be offered to the victims
- Many eyewitnesses reported that, at the first sound of blasts from the dump, the entirel military contingent supposed to be guarding it, "legged it" over the fence and dissappeared to parts unknown. They didn't even warn the local people.
One positive effect for the long term, is that many ordinary citizens have woken up to the utter disdain the ruling elite have for them. There was a lot of abnormally outspoken public anger at what happened and the stubborn refusal by the elite to accept any blame. There was even a demonstration outside the Ministry of Defence on saturday, calling for the resignation of the Minister of Defence (who also happens to be related by marriage to the Pres). Small, but it existed. The police declared that they weren't sure if the demo was legal or not, so they arrested a dozen people for good measure.
Omar went round a few days ago (his girlfriend lives in one of the affected areas) and took dozens of pictures of the damage and munitions (both exploded and unexploded). Here are just a few
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