Tuesday. 9/7/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Peter Firth

For his next trick

Ethiopian prime minister Dr Abiy Ahmed is in France today to receive Unesco’s Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace prize at the institution’s Paris headquarters. The good doctor’s admirers in Europe believe that he deserves ample garlanding for the achievements of his first year of office. They have a point. Ahmed’s actions read like a wishlist of liberal reforms: he has freed dissidents, lifted restrictions on the media and promoted women to more than half of the country’s ministerial positions. The clincher for Unesco’s judges is Ahmed’s handling of Ethiopia’s rapprochement with Eritrea last July, which marked the end of a two-decade war.

But Ahmed has an altogether stickier set of problems to contend with this summer. Ethnic tensions in the south of Ethiopia are worsening: violence between the Gedeo minority and neighbouring Oromos has escalated, such clashes have recently resulted in some 700,000 people being displaced. Ahmed’s government is encouraging the affected to return to their homes but doing little to mitigate the land disputes that have caused the conflict. Beyond this, the reconciliation with Eritrea has lost its lustre since Ethiopia’s neighbour closed its borders in the spring. If last year was about announcing sudden, progressive reforms, this year will be about making them work.

Diplomacy / Venezuela

Sun, sea and civil war

Representatives from Nicolás Maduro’s Venezuelan government and self-declared interim president Juan Guaidó are expected to meet in Barbados in an attempt to resolve the power struggle that has torn the country asunder. There is some hope that this round of talks will yield better results than a preliminary meeting in May, which ended without an accord between the two sides. Richard Lapper, associate fellow at Chatham House’s US and the Americas programme, identifies Maduro’s backers as key to the success – or failure – of the talks. “The really big issue is what the Chinese and the Russians are doing,” he says. “None of this can work unless they want it to.”

Aviation / The US

Bumpy ride

US aircraft-maker Boeing is expected to report a fall in deliveries from April to June as its woes surrounding the troubled 737 Max jets continue. Saudi Arabian low-cost carrier Flyadeal cancelled a $5.9bn (€5.3bn) order of up to 50 such planes on the weekend, announcing that it is buying 30 A320neos from rival Airbus instead. It is the second company to pull out of a deal with Boeing: Indonesia’s Garuda reneged on a $4.9bn (€4.4bn) purchase earlier this year. The beleaguered firm is working to address the cause of two deadly 737 Max crashes, which killed 346 people. But, despite a vote of confidence in the form of a prospective order from International Airlines Group, it’s clear that Boeing is in for an extended period of turbulence.

Society / Cambodia

Cell division

Cambodia has an abysmal prison system: some inmates have less than a square metre of space, often there is a lack of potable water and forced labour is common. But prisoners can stave off these ills – if they have the money. A prison in Phnom Penh is preparing to unveil a “hotel” wing with superior conditions that wealthier detainees can pay to move into. The project, which will be run for profit on a 45-year deal, is being built by Kunn Rekon Holdings, a private Cambodian developer. The government hopes that it will ease overcrowding but that’s wishful thinking. A likelier outcome is financial discrimination, inequality and vulturine behaviour by the developer, whose goal is revenue not rehabilitation.

Transport / Japan

Current thinking

Tokyo is floating an idea to ease overcrowding on trains during rush hour this summer: boats will ferry people commuters along waterways in the southeast of the city for a week’s trial, reducing the burden on other modes of transport. The boats will be able to carry 40 people at a time and will run for free every 15 minutes from 07.30 to 09.00. The long-term ambition is to redevelop the city’s rivers, making pedestrian areas along banks better for business and leisure. The solution is an elegant one but it remains to be seen whether those facing a crush on the city’s subways will feel the difference.

M24 / The Monocle Culture Show

Cindy Sherman

The art world’s master of disguise has a retrospective at the National Portrait Gallery; we try to get to the bottom of the wit and wigs that have made her one of the greatest contemporary artists. Robert Bound is joined by Kathlene Fox-Davies and Francesca Gavin.

Film / Brooklyn

Brooklyn Navy Yard

From urban farming to robotics, we take a tour around the Brooklyn Navy Yard to see how this vast shipyard has rebuilt its industry and community once more.

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