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Burundi’s president is now “Supreme Eternal Guide”. Retirement is out

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AS OMENS go, it is not a good one. In Kinama, a district in north-east Bujumbura, the cobble-stoned capital of Burundi, residents found the body of a man floating in a field of rice on May 8th. His head was missing; his heart had been torn out. Stuck to his chest was a message written in Kirundi, the language of most Burundians: “Traitors are punished.” Violence has broken out in Burundi ahead of a referendum on May 17th to change the constitution to allow Pierre Nkurunziza, a former rebel who has been president since the end of the civil war in 2005, to stand for office again in 2020. On May 11th, 26 people were killed in the north-west of the country in an attack by rebels who crossed in from the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo. Three days later an opposition activist who ha

Zimbabwe’s new president may not be able to fix the economy

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Green, but not backed UNTIL recently Priscilla Magaya was an administrator in a printing firm in Harare, Zimbabwe’s sunny capital. Today she spends her days on the side of a street, clutching a thick bundle of different banknotes. A few weeks ago, after two years of not paying her wages, her employer went bust. Ms Magaya turned to money trading, swapping real American dollars for Zimbabwe’s confusing profusion of local paper. For $100 in actual greenbacks, buyers get $120 in bright green “bond notes”—a Zimbabwean currency introduced in 2016 that is meant to be pegged to the dollar—or $140 in mobile money, which is also meant to be on a par with real dollars. Her earnings are “not something that I can survive on”, she says, but she has no other option. Two years ago money in Zimbabwe was

A cleric who once tormented America seems to have won Iraq’s election

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MUQTADA AL-SADR is a master at tapping Iraqi discontent. The firebrand Shia cleric (pictured) directed his supporters to attack the American troops who invaded Iraq in 2003. More recently he has led campaigns against corruption and foreign influence. His supporters ransacked government offices in 2016. And in the election on May 12th they gave his nationalist bloc, Sairoun (“Marching to Reform”), the most seats in parliament. Unofficial results put it unexpectedly ahead, with 55 seats. The bloc led by Iraq’s mild-mannered prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, came second, with 51. A coalition led by Hadi al-Amari, the gruff commander of the Iranian-backed Badr Brigades, came third, with 50. The surprising result signals growing discontent with Iraq’s sectarian old guard. But it is unlikely t

Why Qatar is raising cows in the desert

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STEP inside, and it could be a scene from the English countryside or the American heartland: one hundred well-fed dairy cows spinning slowly on a circular milking parlour. But outside there are no green fields, only sand. Baladna (“Our Country”) is a dairy farm in the desert, 50km from Doha, the Qatari capital. Behind the milking house is the din of construction. Hundreds of labourers are working to expand the farm, building new barns and installing fans and misters to cool them. “None of this was here a year ago,” says John Dore, the Irishman who manages the place. There was no need for it. Until June Qatar imported milk from Almarai, a Saudi conglomerate. Then Saudi Arabia and three other Arab states closed their borders to punish Qatar for supporting Islamist groups and Al Jazeera, a

Iran braces for economic war with America

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TEHRAN’S grand bazaar, a weathervane of politics, is on strike again. Shutdowns there foreshadowed Iran’s 1979 revolution. In 2012 they pushed the government into talks that eventually resulted in a deal, signed in 2015, that restricted Iran’s nuclear efforts in exchange for sanctions relief. And Donald Trump’s pull-out from that deal on May 8th drew an instant reaction from traders, who sense something ominous. “Tehran feels like it did before...1979,” says Pejman Abdolmohammadi, an Iranian lecturer at the London School of Economics. Iran’s business world was already glum. America’s continued curbs on dollar transactions had muted the effect of the lifting of global sanctions in January 2016. But now, merchants say, America is moving from containing the regime to trying to change it. M

Zimbabwe launches a second state-owned airline

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HAVING one loss-making state-owned airline is bad enough. What, then, of a government that wants two? Earlier this year Zimbabweans were startled to learn that the government had concluded a secret $70m deal to buy four second-hand Boeing jets from Malaysia to form the core of a new national airline, Zimbabwe Airways. This venture is supposed to compete with Air Zimbabwe, the flag carrier, which ran up huge debts thanks to poor management and ex-President Robert Mugabe’s habit of commandeering its planes so his wife could shop abroad. The government hopes to stimulate tourism and business by reopening long-haul routes that are closed to Air Zimbabwe, whose planes can be impounded as soon as they land on foreign runways. It suspended flights to London’s Gatwick airport in 2011, for inst