General News - March 2012
Ibo Island Festival - 30 March 2012
Ibo Island – A brief Historical Summary:
Ibo Island represents the figurative cultural epicentre of the Quirimbas Archipelago in Northern Mozambique. The Island supports one of the oldest towns in Mozambican and African history; it is undoubtedly one of the most interesting and atmospheric towns of the entire country. Mozambique’s recorded history dates back numerous centuries and the country has been subject to conquest and exploitation since time immemorial. As early as AD600 Arab traders had established contact with the local inhabitants and subsequently established fortified trading posts along the coastline. Via these trading posts slaves, gold and ivory were shipped to the Arab world.
The specific history of Ibo Island can be dated back to at least the year 1600 – Chinese grave stones still bear their readable dates, though Arab influence dates earlier. The Fort of Forma de Cisterna was constructed by the Arabs even before the Portuguese occupation. Ibo Island as well as the minimal others in the Quirimbas Archipelago that were able to supply their inhabitants with fresh water, have always supported human habitation; this important feature has formed an integral part of their social significance in Mozambican history.
By 1590 seven out of the nine largest islands were ruled by a Portuguese Christian lord, and merely two by Muslims. Ibo Island traded in amber, jet, ivory, ambergris and turtle shell. The local inhabitants had to pay 5% of their produce to the islands lord – as well as a contribution to the Catholic Church. On Ibo the Portuguese built large rainwater cisterns that enabled them to raise cattle, pigs and goats. Meat, millet, rice, beans and palm products were all exported and even Ilha de Mozambique seems to have been supplied from Ibo Island. By this time Ibo Island had become the most important centre of all the islands.
Ibo Island gained municipal status in 1763 and by the end of the 18th century, is regarded to have been the second most important Portuguese trading centre after Ilha do Mozambique. Throughout the 18th and 19th century the population of Ibo Island and the adjacent regions were consistently under attack from Dutch and Madagascar forces. As a result of the attacks the Fort of São João Batista (St. John Baptist) was completed in 1791. It wasn’t until 1897, when Ibo Island was integrated into the administration of the Niassa Company that the island and population enjoyed relative safety and peace. In 1902 the capital District of Cabo Delgado was transferred from Ibo Island to Port Amelia, currently the city of Pemba. What is left of the once great trading power on Ibo is an island steeped in history, and mystery.
Ibo has remained all but forgotten to the outside world for almost a century, leaving a ghost town of crumbling forts, old 17th century mansions, and many fascinating stories just waiting to be told.
The Ibo Festival:
It has been said that the day of the annual Ibo festival is held in higher regard than Christmas Day by its current and past residents. Should a son, born upon Ibo soil, fail to attend the festivities, he is doomed to anguish the feeling of that like a fish out of water. Discussions when they all return home will be of ‘Kueto Srirwala’, which in the local Mwani language is English equivalent of ‘home is where the heart is’. The 24th of June is a day which annually lures its sons and daughters back the mystical Ibo Island.
During the period of Ibo Island’s ‘golden years’, when it held the status of provincial capital, the island was inhabited by numerous provincial authorities and a bustling and vibrant population, this all until the days her natural harbour failed to accommodate the modern ships of the 19th century and she lost her title of capital to Port Amelia (now Pemba). These golden years, however are still celebrated today and are remembered fondly by present day inhabitants of the island. The festivities were ignited on the very first day of her inauguration, on the 24th June 1773.
The colonial Portuguese government facilitated a merriment attended inhabitants from all corners of the Ibo district as well as significant government officials spread across the country. The invitation extended to all of these attendees included free transport to and back from Ibo Island. The day was filled with an abundance of spectacles, from bicycle races to dug-out canoe and dhow events. School children presented poems and drama performances and football, dancing and singing pieces also formed part of the festivities.
The Governor arrived from Pemba by plane to crowds aligned along the roadside from the airport to the town square, a sign of great respect and welcoming by the attendees. On his arrival at the town square, the crowds gathered at the ex-administration block (now the administrative office for The Quirimbas National Park) to raise the national flag while both the national and district anthems resonated through the streets. An opening speech was delivered, after which all of the activities were performed before the officials and the crowd far into the evening. At midnight the masses were lured to the Town Square to witness the lighting of the bonfire or ‘fogueira’ in Portuguese. This was an indication of the end of the festival.
The festival remains alight in the souls of today’s Mozambican’s, with preparations for an annual gathering starting at the beginning of each year. During colonial years, all procurements were provided for by the Portuguese Government. The current government is unable to provide the same service for this large event, but local contribute with what they can afford in the forms of maize meal, rice, fish, chickens or goat, sometimes even with cash. Organisations such as Fundacao do Ibo and Ibo Island Lodge also play a significant role in helping Ibo Island authorities in organising the event. Even local schools contribute by providing accommodation facilities in their classrooms to accommodate non-residents of Ibo Island.
As the day approaches, a gathering will commence on the 23rd June each year with procedures dating back to 1773 being followed the next morning through until midnight, with performance of traditional Ibo Island dances highlighting artistic cultural in the form of ‘Dunfo’ (or ‘Tufo’ in Portuguese) displaying spears being spiralled before the crowds, ‘Nyoka’ a snake like dance, ‘Dhamba’ or Arabic origin and the ‘Tara ‘bo’ originating from Tanzania. And just as in colonial era’s past, a bonfire illuminates the Town Square, but does not bring an end to festivities; the entire nation then comes together in a celebration of Mozambique’s Independence Day on the 25th June each year.
The celebration continues through to the morning of the 26th when a closing of proceedings is indicated only by individuals making their way to the beach to wait for the tide to allow them to leave the island through the mangrove forests...their minds filled with nostalgia and their bodies with ambition.
Briefing on Somalia conference in London - 1 March 2012
London- Very positive discussions between the European and East African communities on Security
Leading figures of the East African community including Kenya's President Moi Kibaki and Tanzania's Foreign Secretary attended Thursday's conference at The Foreign Office hosted by Prime Minister David Cameron. The outcome of this conference is vital for the security of the East African seaboard and is critical for the stability of tourism in the region and has been widely covered by the world media.
As well as a range of action across political, security and stability priorities, today’s Somalia Conference saw important new efforts to tackle piracy.
• Foreign Secretary William Hague and Tanzanian Foreign Minister Bernard Membe signed a Memorandum of Understanding allowing the Royal Navy to transfer suspected pirates to Tanzania to be prosecuted. The Foreign Secretary also signed a statement of intent with Mauritian Foreign Minsiter Arvin Boolell to conclude such an MOU by early June. The UK will continue to work with other states in the region to secure similar agreements.
• Somaliland signed a ground breaking agreement with the Seychelles yesterday to transfer convicted pirates to prisons in Somaliland – the first transfer of 19 convicted pirates is likely to take place by the end of March.
• Puntland made clear its commitment to the transfer of convicted pirates from prisons in the region to prisons in Puntland from August.
• The UK announced the creation of an international task force on pirate ransoms. This will bring together experts from across the world to better understand the ransom business cycle and how to break it. We will be working with international partners over the coming weeks to set out the structure and approach of the Task Force.
These steps come on top of further practical measures announced earlier this week. Foreign Secretary William Hague announced on Tuesday (21 February) that the UK is to provide the Director and £550,000 for the construction of the new Regional Anti-Piracy Prosecutions Intelligence Co-ordination Centre based in the Seychelles. That centre will coordinate and analyse intelligence to inform law enforcement operations, ensuring we hold to account not just individual pirates but those who finance and enable huge pirate operations. The UK also welcomed guidance provided by the International Maritime Organisation on the use of armed guards to Flag States and Ship owners, and to enhance the information on high risk areas available via their website.
UK wants to see a seamless cycle of justice where pirates are caught at sea by the Royal Navy, prosecuted in regional states and imprisoned in Somalia. The actions this week are aimed at that entire cycle. UK also recognisea that piracy is a symptom as well as a cause of Somalia’s lack of stability - piracy cannot be solved by action at sea alone which is why the Somalia Conference has also been addressing the root causes which lie on the land.