CAPE VERDE: Volcano Video Report

Cape Verde’s Fogo island is one massive stratovolcano – and it’s still active

The island was in fact even bigger – what we’re standing on above is just one part that remained after a devastating partial collapse 73,000 years ago saw one side of the volcano slide in an vast avalanche of rocks down into the Atlantic. That seismic event caused a megatsunami more than 150m high that dredged boulders from the sea floor and deposited them up into the inland hills of next-door Santiago island, Cape Verde’s biggest and home to the current capital, Praia.

Pico do Fogo

Looking into Pico do Fogo’s crater

The climb from the crater, at 1800m, up a kilometre to the top of the island chain at 2829m, took us about three hours, tramping through ash and scrabbling up sharp rock. From the top, wide Atlantic views ranged out in every direction and Fogo island itself spread out below us, as you can see in the video above.

Casa Marisa is built on top of the most recent lava flows

From there we also noticed the new dwellings being built on the lava flows from 2014, as you can see in the photo. Ingeniously, this gives Casa Marisa (pictured above), a costless way of providing hot water and underfloor heating as it simply runs the pipes through the warm rocks the buildings stand on.

One house swallowed by the 2014 eruption

This is what the people of Chã das Caldeiras had to contend with four years ago, as the eruption poured out rivers of lava that careered into the houses in the crater. The building in the photo above would have stood a storey-high before the eruption but now the road runs right past its roof. Some houses were crushed entirely; solidified bubbles of black rock ooze out of the windows of others. There were no deaths in 2014 as small earthquakes before the eruption gave warning of what was to come.

But the villagers have come back, and they are a special people who feel removed from the other Fogo islanders living in the main towns or on the outer slopes of the volcano. They live up in the astounding, dusty beauty of the caldeira, under some of the darkest skies in the world, their roof of a billion stars and the perfect, looming cone of Pico do Fogo.

Older lava flows on the southern sides of the volcano. The village is hidden deep behind the crater walls in the centre of the photo and Pico do Fogo  stands out on the right


Brightening up the Baia

A small village in Cape Verde benefits from Brazilian-inspired street art

Baia de Norte looks out quietly on the Atlantic waves washing into the bay below, with the brown gravel slopes of Monte Verde running away above.  Chickens hop along the walls and dogs jog around the corners and we are welcomed by the squealing of a couple of pigs in breeze-block pens.

Bright blues and reds, sharp lines of green and blasts of yellow shout across the dirt roads and bring to life the simple walls of the village.

A group of artists from fellow Portuguese-speaking Brazil have come to Baia de Norte over the last couple of years, using their artistic skills to bring the warmth and optimism of colour and light to the humble houses.

The co-operative have shown off their thoughtful designs throughout the small settlement, which overlooks Baia das Gatas on the northern coast of the island of Sao Vicente.

It is rich art with a range of work that often incorporates the existing windows and pipes on the village houses into the paintings.

On one house, pink boats and yellow anchors call to mind the surrounding open Atlantic, which laps the shores of both countries.

Large palm trees and quirky houses adorn one wall, with ravenous animals on another.

There are fishermen and different figures, there are bold blocks and intricate facial details. There are also less obvious spray-strokes such as someone’s polka-dot washing hanging on a line. It is brilliant art splashed against the grey walls.

There is also a fish portraying the international connections with its head of Brazilian green, yellow and blue as it drifts through the sky and sea blues of Cape Verde.

The islands’ villages are often brightly coloured, with big bands of orange, teal and crimson shining in the streets. Here in Baia de Norte the artists bring that brilliance to a less fortunate corner of what is a beautiful archipelago.

Islands in the sun

An Atlantic archipelago is making waves among small, African nations

Cape Verde calls holiday-makers to its pristine beaches, adventurers to its active volcano and scientists to study its unique ecosystems and endemic wildlife.


Maio (

Off the west coast of Africa, more than 500km out into the Atlantic Ocean, Cape Verde has a deep and speckled history and is hoping for a bright future.

The islands’ geographical isolation from the mainland means that they have not been tainted by the political thrills and spills in other West African countries.

It enjoys a relatively stable democracy, with peaceful transfers of power between different parties at free elections. There has not been one coup d’état since independence in 1975.

Its unique location in the Atlantic between Africa and South America first saw the Portuguese establish a slave-trading exchange between Brazil and Lisbon’s western African colonies.

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Then the American whaling ships swung by on their way to the hunting grounds to pick up supplies and young men looking for a life at sea away from the volcanic rocks. After that saw the construction of coal stations built by the British for cross-ocean steamers.

The islands have a population of 520,000 but thousands more claim Cape Verdean heritage in a well-established diaspora built upon the sea-faring traditions and international connections of the islanders.

To that end, remittances from overseas nationals provide a substantial boost to the economy, though tourism is easily the biggest source of income. Thousands of visitors come each year to while away hours on the white-sand beaches of the eastern islands, get lost in the canyons in the north, or take in the active volcanic island of Fogo.

And it is on that island that wine is famously produced on the lava of the islands’ highest point, Pico de Fogo. Aside from that though, the agriculture sector has been hard to develop on the windswept rocky islands. Some fruits are grown – but about 90% of food is imported.

Praia (

Life expectancy of approximately 73.5 years is the highest in sub-Saharan Africa and the literacy rate is around 87%.

The World Bank sees the next steps for the archipelago’s economy as being to diversify ‘within and beyond’ the tourism sector, building a more flexible labour market and refining the investment climate. Additionally, there are hopes of improvements to the infrastructure links between the islands (some are just a few kilometres on a ferry apart; others are an hour’s flight away).

Morna, the melancholic genre of lilting music whose most famous exponent was Cesaria Evora, has been a major cultural export success. Indeed, music is part of the national DNA from the gyrating passion of the batuko to the anti-imperialist beat-surge of the funana.

All this reaches its climax in the run-up to Lent (this year just around the corner from 10-14 February) with the Cape Verde Carnival, when the islands will sway and stomp to a riot of kaleidoscopic dancers, floats and bands with a party to rival any that their Brazilian friends across the ocean could offer.

This blog will report from Cape Verde next month

A arte dos africanos lusófonos

Uma vista e uma perspectiva de alguns dos artistas africanos lusófonos                      

Todos estes artistas tiveram as suas obras exibidas no 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair em Londres. Foram 133 artistas diferentes na exibição, e dez dos artistas são dos dois nações maiores lusófonos do continente: Angola e Moçambique.

Edson Chagas – Angola – Fotografia (desconstruída, tempos atuais)

'Found Not Taken (London)' - 2014 - APALAZZOGALLERY

‘Found Not Taken (London)’ – 2014 – APALAZZOGALLERY

Adalberto Ferreira – Angola – Pintura e fotografia (urbanismo, costumes culturais)

'Pregnant Woman' - 2014 - Tamar Golan Gallery

‘Pregnant Woman’ – 2014 – Tamar Golan Gallery

Délio Jasse – Angola – Fotografia (imagens latentes)

'Pontus' - 2012 - Artist/Tiwani Contemporary

‘Pontus’ – 2012 – Artist/Tiwani Contemporary

Paulo Kapela – Angola – Pintura (‘o pai espiritual’)

'Untitled' - 2015 - Tamar Golan Gallery

‘Untitled’ – 2015 – Tamar Golan Gallery

Gonçalo Mabunda  Moçambique – Escultura (memória coletiva, a guerra civil)

'Untitled (Mask)' - 2013 - Jack Bell Gallery

‘Untitled (Mask)’ – 2013 – Jack Bell Gallery

Mário Macilau  Moçambique – Fotografia e pintura (grupos marginalizados)

Kamana Silva - 2014 - Ed Cross Fine Art

‘Kamana Silva’ – 2014 – Ed Cross Fine Art

Mauro Pinto – Moçambique – Fotografia (internacional, as cidades)

'ultimo testamente' - 2012 - Afronova

‘ultimo testamente’ – 2012 – Afronova

Joana Taya – Angola – Desenho gráfico e ilustração (identidade feminina)

'Endangered Beauty 02' - 2015 - Tamar Golan Gallery

‘Endangered Beauty 02’ – 2015 – Tamar Golan Gallery

Francisco Van-Dúnem  Angola – Pintura (meio ambiente, a vida cotidiana)

'Departure for the Contract' - 2015 - Tamar Golan Gallery

‘Departure for the Contract’ – 2015 – Tamar Golan Gallery

Francisco Vidal – Angola/Cabo Verde – Pintura (labor, dissidência política)

'Atlantis' - 2015 - Artist/Tiwani Contemporary

‘Atlantis’ – 2015 – Artist/Tiwani Contemporary

A woman’s work

All three female presidents in Africa have different problems to deal with

The Central African Republic (CAR), Liberia and Malawi are thousands of miles apart, separated by huge tranches of desert, jungle and mountain range. But of the 56 or so African countries, they are the three nations where a woman rules the roost right now. The Liberian president kick-started the trend – in 2005 Ellen Johnson Sirleaf became the first elected head of state on the continent. She won a second six-year term in 2011. A year later, the first woman in the hot-seat in sub-Saharan Africa, Joyce Banda, took over in Malawi and this blog covered the transition of power in Lilongwe at the time. The most recent of the three into her job is Catherine Samba-Panza, who was sworn in as interim leader of the CAR in January.

Her job is the most pressing and the most dangerous. Since Muslim rebels ousted François Bozizé from the presidency in March last year, there has been ongoing unrest, which has been characterised by gruesome tit-for-tat killings by the Muslim Séléka rebels and the Christian ‘anti-balaka’ vigilantes. France has tried to organise a move back to stability for the poor, landlocked country by providing more than 1,500 soldiers to support the African Union force in the CAR but the situation that Ms Samba-Panza has to deal with is chaotic. Thousands of people have been killed and a million others have fled their homes. The president has been dubbed ‘Mother Courage’ and there are hopes that she can use her non-partisan, maternal touch in trying to broker some sort of deal between the rivals and bring an element of calm to the mayhem.

2,600 miles to the south-east, Joyce Banda is at the opposite end of the scale, where she has been subjected to calls for her resignation over what has been known as the ‘Cashgate’ scandal. She has been Malawi’s leader for a year but faces a tough time ahead of national elections in May, when voters may punish her People’s Party for the disreputable practices – an apparent siphoning off of taxpayers’ money into civil servants’ accounts. She has vowed to clean up the coffers and root out the looters, saying that dealing with the cash issue (and not the impending elections) is the only thing occupying her mind right now. This is an admirable claim but one that must stand up to the test: the trappings of power can be a strong lure for politicians who want to extend their time in office just that little bit longer. Banda asserts that she did not know about ‘Cashgate’ and she has not been implicated. But as international donors saying they will withhold aid until the scandal is sorted out, this is an urgent and debilitating problem for the president.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, or ‘Ma Ellen’, was the first female leader elected in Africa and the Nobel Peace Prize-winner has such a standing that the CAR’s new president Catherine Samba-Panza has mentioned the Liberian as a model upon which to base herself. Johnson Sirleaf is halfway through her second term in office and will have to stand down in 2017. The country is rich in resources and there has been healthy GDP growth over the last few years. However, this output is only now recovering to 1988 levels (pre-civil war), and there are still many other issues to look at, for example Liberia ranks only 174 (out of 187) in the UN’s Human Development Index.

Another irritance for Ms Johnson Sirleaf are the ongoing attacks carried out from inside Liberia on towns along the western border with Ivory Coast. In the latest deadly incident, on Sunday 23 February, four Ivorian soldiers (and several attackers) were killed in a raid inside Ivory Coast on the town of Grabo. The gunmen suspected of making the assaults are believed to be allies of former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo, who is currently awaiting trial at the International Criminal Court over crimes committed during the 2011 post-election civil war. Johnson Sirleaf had called for a non-military solution to that crisis and backed Alassane Ouattara, who had come out top in the vote.

These three women are leading the charge for female presidents in Africa and while that is a grand point for the continent, the different problems they face demonstrate the dissimilarities in the politics throughout the continent from the religious conflict in the CAR, through to the misuse of public monies in Malawi, through to a post-war structural recovery in Liberia.

Jungle jitters

Tensions flare in Mozambique as the rebel opposition tears up the civil war peace treaty

The Monday morning news in Mozambique made for grim reading. The Renamo former rebel group declared it was terminating a peace accord that ended the country’s 1975-1992 civil war. The rebel opposition blamed the governing Frelimo party and soldiers for surrounding one of its headquarters in Sofala province, in the centre of the country, and then staging a raid on the base. By today, Friday 25th, Renamo had announced that one of its MPs, Armino Milaco, had died as a result of the assault on its military base. This is a serious culmination of a problem that has been getting worse throughout the year. Renamo staged raids in April and June in central Mozambique in which at least 11 soldiers and six civilians died.

In response, the president, Armando Guebuza, has sent military reinforcements to the area to try to contain the threat to peace and stability that Renamo and their angry leader, Afonso Dhlakama, could pose. Dhlakama wants electoral reforms to shake up a system that has seen Guebuza’s Frelimo in government since the end of the conflict in 1992. During that war he oversaw an effective guerilla campaign by his men, based out of the central jungles. The raids carried out so far this year by the hiding rebels have disrupted road and rail traffic and the government is determined to see off the deadly and unpredictable tactics of Dhlakama and his band.

Political stability is important in Mozambique because it is both a nation leading the way in some sectors and also one that is having to learn from neighbours’ examples in other areas. The oil and gas industry serves both these factors well: the country has huge fields of both commodities but is having to balance the excited foreign investors and the manner in which profits are shared between the companies working on the fields and the under-developed population. The economy grew 7.4% last year and is expected to hit 7% again in 2013. GDP per capita is still low, with 2012 data from the World Bank showing the country well down the Africa list, with a total of only $579. But although Equatorial Guinea is strides ahead in the numbers ($24,036), the tiny oil-rich nation is hardly a continental leader when it comes to equality and wealth distribution. Mozambique will have to be careful how it manages its oil and gas find. It is a fast-growing economy in a volatile part of the continent (Zimbabwe’s regression, Madagascar’s military coup).

Maputo needs also to be wary of the country’s dominance by just one party, Frelimo. Stability is no longer beneficial when it turns to stagnation. South Africa’s ANC (in power since 1994) is being criticised for alleged abuse of power, abuse of position and internal corruption. This worry over one-partyism is not to say that Frelimo should immediately resign power but just that it needs to be alert to the problems and resentment that can be caused in such situations. Both world powers (United States) and neighbours (Zimbabwe) have called for calm this week and the Mozambican people certainly do not have any appetite to return to civil war. But this remains a delicate situation of peace accords, one-party government, oil bonanzas and national development that needs a steady and carefully mediated path to be defined by the country’s bickering leaders.

Arab autumn woes

As the global wrangling over Syria continues, militant attacks go on in ‘post-Arab Spring’ nations

Two-and-a-half years on from the explosive revolutions that toppled dictators and forced deep re-organisations of countries’ politics from Morocco to Yemen, there seems to be no let up in the deadly instability that has rocked many of the nations that underwent upheavals.

Yesterday, the Egyptian air forces carries out raids on Islamist militant positions in the restive Sinai area – a double strike as part of an ongoing battle with insurgents in the region more generally and also in probable retaliation for two suicide car bombings on Wednesday 11. Six soldiers lost their lives and many more people were wounded in the twin assault: one targeted the intelligence building in the town of Rafah and the other hit an armoured personnel carrier. A little-known jihadist group called Jund al-Islam claimed responsibility.

There was another car bombing on Wednesday, to the east over the border in Libya. This time the device went off near the country’s Foreign Ministry in the city of Benghazi. There were no serious casualties but the explosion came on both the anniversary of the 9/11 attack in the US in 2001 and the attack on the American Consulate in the Libyan city. The U.S. ambassador and three others died as al-Qaeda-linked militants broke into the diplomatic mission last year.

At the start of the week, on Monday, the Tunisian security forces killed two Islamist fighters belonging to the Ansar al-Sharia extremist group. And just today there was another bombing of Yemen’s main oil pipeline in the central Maarib province. It is the fourth attack on the pipeline in a month.

Algeria has also been in the news over the last few days after the release of a report into a deadly siege attack in January on a gas plant in the country’s desert borderlands with Libya. 40 people were killed when Islamist extremists overran the In Amenas facility, which was home to many Western workers as well as Algerians. Statoil, the Norwegian company, published on Thursday the conclusions of an internal investigation into the militant assault.

But despite all this unrest across the region, the past seven days have been another week where the focus of the world’s media has been on Syria. There has now been an agreement between John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov over how to address the 21 August use of chemical weapons, but there remains a nervousness, with the use of force by the US not totally ruled out for all contexts. The world powers may be trying to deal with the Syrian crisis, but they are only looking into the chemical weapons side of that conflict, not the deteriorating state of the nation itself, wrecked by a war that shows no signs of stopping, and is becoming ever more complex regarding the ethnic and religious alliances and hostilities at play.

What this past week encapsulates is the overarching worry of the examples now being played out by the countries ahead of Syria in the ‘Arab Spring’ transition ladder. The war in Syria seems a long way from ending (if it ever technically does, that is), but even if it were concluding, the extremist elements on both sides of the conflict point to an ominous future for the country. If terrorist bombings can continue in countries that are perceived to have already gone through the ‘Arab Spring’, then the outlook for Syria, (which has had the longest war of all those countries, and thus more time for militants to weave their extremist aims into the region), is bleak – despite the Russia-US negotiations appearing to start to bear fruit.

Smoke in the region

The papal election could allow West Africans to hit the headlines for the right religious reasons

So far the main international news this year from West Africa has been linked in some way to the French-led battle against Islamist insurgents in Mali. France unleashed a ground and air operation there on 11 January, fighting what it claimed was the growing risk posed to the region and Europe by a bullish al-Qaeda-affiliated insurgency.

The conflict is continuing in the sandy mountains of northern Mali and troops from across the region are involved. But the mission seems to have spurred on Islamist extremists in the area as well. A French family was kidnapped last month from the far north of Cameroon by the Nigerian Boko Haram militants; in an online video of the family one of the abductors cites the French deployment in Mali as a “war on Islam”. And the Ansaru breakaway faction of Boko Haram has murdered both Westerners and locals in what it sees as its ‘struggle of good against evil’.

Islam and Christianity dominate West Africa, although they are often mixed with traditional beliefs. Islam holds sway in nations such as Burkina Faso and Niger; there are more Christians in Benin and Liberia. Countries like Nigeria are split half and half. It is a cultural and religious concoction, nowhere better illustrated than in Senegal.

More than 90% of Senegalese are Muslims but there is respect for the Christian minority, which is open and powerful enough to have one of its cardinals in the Vatican right now: 76-year-old Théodore-Adrien Sarr is the Archbishop of Dakar. And he is not alone. In the Holy See with him are four other West African cardinals, of whom one is among the favourites to be voted into the papacy. The two Nigerian men in red are 76-year-old Anthony Olubunmi Okogie, who’s the Archbishop Emeritus of Lagos and John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, the 69-year-old Archbishop of Abuja. Guinea’s Robert Sarah, who’s 67, is the President of the Pontifical Council and finally there is the affable Peter Turkson. At 64, he’s the youngest of the West African crew and the President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. He is also high up on many people’s betting slips for the top job.

Clearly, the secretive voting and burning going on in the Vatican City at the moment only concerns Roman Catholics, and an argument can be made that this negates the papal election having any pan-religious bearing on the region. But this only takes the conclave’s significance at face value. By electing an African pope (and there are also bishops from the other side of the continent in Rome, such as the Sudanese Archbishop Gabriel Zubeir Wako and Tanzania’s colourfully-named Polycarp Pengo) the cardinals will be supporting the notion that the continent can be the driving force behind development in the coming decade; that Africa won’t just be in the lead pack when it comes to economic drivers but that it can also take on the weight of a world faith for the future.

That the responsibility is to head up a Christian denomination does not belittle or criticise the other major global religion – Islam. It supports the importance of faith in the region, be it from a mosque in Dakar or a church in Lagos. Nor does the Catholic factor denigrate the other Christian off-shoots.

However, the Catholic Church is going through a rough period at the moment with global sex scandals and Vatican financial scandals hurting the papacy. What also clouds some of the positive vision that some may have for an African pope are the conservative policies – particularly on the use of condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS and on homosexuality – that remain popular and preached to the faithful. The welcome image of an African pope and all the hope that could bring may well be stained by the realisation that while he may look forward on overall development in his continent, he will also be looking backwards on internal social development.

Last week, the French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told his forces that they are going to be staying at war in Mali until the security of the country is assured. That will take a little while longer yet. Papal conclaves are somewhat shorter affairs and the result of this one could bring what would be (on the surface) positive news to West Africa – with one of the Christian leaders following in St Peter’s footsteps for the first time.

Heart of darkness

Another anti-government rebellion is under way in the middle of Africa

This time it is in the Central African Republic (CAR) and so far nearly a dozen towns, including the major settlement of Kaga Bandano, have fallen into rebel hands. The dissidents, who are threatening to march on the capital, Bangui, complain that the CAR president, Francois Bozize, has not stuck to the terms of the 2008 Libreville Comprehensive Peace Agreement (LCPA), which was forged between the government and all but one of the country’s armed groups. (The one gang which did not sign the original LCPA belatedly put its pen to paper in June this year.)

But this upsurge in violence has worried Western nations. The US has moved its ambassadorial staff to safety and on 26 December protesters threw stones at the French Embassy building in Bangui, tearing down the tricolore in anger at the rebellious movements in the north of the country. The CAR government has asked for help from Paris in sorting out the malcontents but the French leader, Francois Hollande, is reluctant to get back involved in the internal politics of his country’s former colony. (On a recent trip to Algeria, another ex-French subject state, Mr Hollande described colonialism as “profoundly unjust and brutal”.)

The United Nations Security Council has condemned the ‘Seleka’ rebel attacks and called for both sides to come to a peaceful solution. Surprisingly, the rebels seemed to have been aided in their assaults on many places due to the withdrawal of the troops stationed there, many of whom are from the CAR’s northern neighbour, Chad. But the idea of an internal rebel advance, taking towns and villages along the way, feels remarkably familiar and fresh in the memory. Just to the CAR’s south is the huge rough rectangle that forms the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and this other acronymed African country has had recent rebellious problems of its own.

On 20 November soldiers from the M23 rebel army stormed the town of Goma, in the far east of the DRC, close to the Rwandan border. The M23 group defected from the Congolese army in a dispute over a 2009 peace agreement that saw rebels reintegrated into the military; the group takes its name from the date of these accords (23 March). After the fall of Goma, the M23 soldiers wrested control of several other towns in the region from the UN-backed national Congolese forces. The M23 rebels retreated from Goma at the start of this month after a frail peace deal was agreed between the two sides.

The rebel movements in both the CAR and the DRC arose from peace accords that were meant to have put a stop to all this mutiny. The incendiary nature of fractured rebel factions, government crackdowns and other cross-border rebel influences mean that the current situation of a fragile peace in DRC and an ongoing insurrection in CAR is dangerous. Added to this mix are further international groups like the Lord’s Resistance Army. These outlaws are headed by globally wanted man Joseph Kony and they are infamous for mass recruitment of child soldiers and for a growing list of crimes, from robbery to rape. They are based around and about this general central/east-central African region.

This region is certainly bubbling. CAR shares a frontier with the world’s newest nation, South Sudan, which is still completing a slow, complex and often violent divorce from Sudan. Al-Qaeda-linked Somali militants Al-Shabaab have been willing to pop over the south-western border to Kenya to carry out suicide attacks in markets and nightclubs. When a few nations are involved, it is more likely that they will be able to get together themselves and sort out their problems. But the growing entanglement of national influences and interests amongst the jungles and red-dirt roads of the area may now signify the moment for an ‘outside’ power to step in and mediate. However, as we have seen from the plea from the CAR for help from their former colonial master, it would be nearly impossible to find a mediator who is not tarnished by current, former, overt or covert ties and partialities.