The fall of Robert Mugabe has dominated global coverage of Africa over the past few weeks. In Western coverage of the first week after the coup in Zimbabwe there was speculation about what China knew beforehand and whether Beijing played an active role in pushing for it.
China’s mention drowned out other notable external stakeholders such as the UK, the US, South Africa, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU). And it almost threatened to overshadow the domestic dynamics that led to the changeover.
There are reasons to draw a direct parallel between China and the recent events in Zimbabwe.… Seguir leyendo » “Why the focus on China’s role in Mugabe’s fall missed the bigger picture”
Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and start preparations for the US to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to the contested city, has the potential to further inflame tensions across the Middle East.
Although this is not an unexpected move – Trump expressed his intention to do so during his electoral campaign – the decision breaks with years of precedent.
Trump’s decision to move the embassy means he will not follow his predecessors by renewing a waiver on the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, which required the embassy to eventually be moved from Tel Aviv.… Seguir leyendo » “What Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel means for the Middle East”
An agreement to address migrant and refugee crises worldwide, which the UN General Assembly adopted in September, has been described by many in the United Nations as nothing short of a miracle. But it also appears imperilled at times by today’s shifting and increasingly difficult political landscape.
Throughout 2017, UN member states are holding consultations on elements of international cooperation and governance of migration as part of the development of a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.
On May 22 and 23, delegates will turn their attention to the current state of knowledge and good practice on the “drivers of migration”.… Seguir leyendo » “Global compact on migration should focus on harnessing its win-win benefits”
In a dramatic change of heart, former Chilean president Ricardo Lagos, who played a central role in the country’s return to democracy in the 1980s, has withdrawn from the upcoming presidential race. It seems Lagos’ lengthy career in public service has finally reached its end.
The decision came after the Socialist Party, historically an ally of his Party for Democracy, publicly backed a different candidate – the independent senator Alejandro Guillier – for this year’s election.
It is the end of an era in Chile. As the 79-year-old Lagos withdraws, an entire generation of ageing leaders is also being symbolically retired.… Seguir leyendo » “The end: Chilean legend exits presidential race, ushering in a new political era”
Unofficial results from Turkey’s April 16 constitutional referendum show that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has won the right to expand presidential power.
The “yes” campaign has won 51.37% of the votes while “no” has secured 48.63%, with 99.45% of ballots counted. The electoral board has declared a victory for the former but the country’s two main opposition parties are challenging the results, demanding a recount of 60% of the votes. Official results are expected in 11 to 12 days.
Erdoğan can now create an executive presidency that will make him the head of state and head of government, ending the country’s current parliamentary political system.… Seguir leyendo » “Turkey’s constitutional referendum: experts express fear for a divided country”
Turkey is approaching a critical juncture in its long-term political development. Irrespective of the outcome, the country’s April 16 referendum, which proposes changing the constitution to concentrate power in the hands of the president, heralds a new political era.
Many signs seem to point to a narrow victory for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in his attempt to establish an executive presidency a la Turca, but the result is not a foregone conclusion.
Should Erdoğan’s suggested reforms be rejected, Turkey’s near future would be defined by its president’s next move. Without a formal shift in constitutional structure, Erdoğan could resort to nefarious means to consolidate his grip on power.… Seguir leyendo » “Will Turkey’s referendum mark the end of democracy and the birth of ‘Erdoğanistan’?”
Civil unrest seems to be the order of the day – and the coming weeks – in Latin America. The sprawling Odebrecht bribery scandal that started in Brazil is now complicating life in many neighbouring nations.
In Colombia, recent reports reveal that the Brazilian construction company has been bribing the country’s public officials since 2010. With the 2018 presidential campaign heating up, the revelation is spurring dissatisfaction with President Juan Manuel Santos and imperilling the country’s fledgling peace process.
On April 1, up to 16,000 Colombians took to the streets to decry corruption and express ongoing dissatisfaction with the peace accords signed with the FARC guerrillas.… Seguir leyendo » “Colombians are fed up with corruption, and everyone seems to be under investigation”
Senators roughed up by police. The Paraguayan Congress in flames. Bands of angry protesters roaming the streets of Asunción. Hundreds arrested. One man dead.
This was the scene in Paraguay over the last ten days or so, where the question of whether the country should allow its presidents to be reelected has prompted a deep national political crisis.
Images of the Congress set alight on March 31, which dominated international headlines, were undoubtedly the best visual synthesis of a crisis that has been brewing here for months.
No thanks, Mr. President
Tensions reached their apex in late March when, after a lengthy negotiation, Paraguay’s parliament took a key step towards allowing President Horacio Cartes to seek reelection next year.… Seguir leyendo » “Paraguay in flames: protests rage as president seeks to remove term limits”
On March 25 2017, two professors from Rio de Janeiro’s Federal University accompanied a group of 13 students from the School of Social Work to visit the location of their upcoming internship: Casa das Mulheres da Maré, or Maré Women’s House, a community space for women in one of the largest favela complexes in Rio de Janeiro.
The Maré neighbourhood, in the northern part of the city, is home to approximately 140,000 people who live in 16 different communities. Because it’s located along three of the city’s main expressways – the Avenida Brasil, Linha Amarela and Linha Vermelha – all international travellers drive past it, or past the wall that hides Maré from tourist eyes, on their way to the Galeão airport.… Seguir leyendo » “With tanks, grenades and guns, police wage war on Rio de Janeiro’s poorest”
The US has struck the Syrian airbase used to launch a suspected sarin gas attack against Khan Sheikhun that killed more than 80 civilians. US President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson cited the chemical attack as the reason for their country’s first direct involvement in Syria’s six-year war.
A Pentagon spokesman said Russia was informed ahead of the attack on the al-Shayrat airbase. According to the Associated Press, opposition group the Syrian Coalition, has welcomed the intervention. The rebel commander whose district was hit by the suspected chemical weapon attack has said he hopes the strike will be a “turning point” in the war.… Seguir leyendo » “Will the US missile strike be the turning point in Syria’s shifting war?”
23 years ago, genocide was unleashed in Rwanda. Almost a million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in about 100 days.
Consider not just the scale of the violence but the intimate means by which some 10,000 people a day lost their lives. Men, women, and children were killed at close proximity – often butchered with machetes, knives, scythes, clubs, picks, and sharpened sticks.
Their killers were not only members of the Rwandan army and the government-backed Interahamwe and Impuzamugambi, the Hutu militias. They were also the victims’ own neighbours, those they had sat next to at school, played soccer with, worked alongside.… Seguir leyendo » “Why it’s important that the world still reflects on Rwanda’s genocide”
Recent months have seen unprecedented social protest in Belarus. According to Human Rights Watch, citizen mobilisation has also resulted in mass and arbitrary arrests of demonstrators, human rights activists and journalists in this authoritarian nation.
On orders of President Aleksandr Lukashenko, who has ruled the country since 1994, some 1,000 people were detained, jailed or forced to pay hefty fines from February through the big March 25 Freedom Day protest commemorating the republic’s founding in 1918.
Notably, protests occurred not only in Minsk and regional capitals but also in smaller towns throughout Belarus for the first time. A proposition for a new tax targeting part-time workers catalysed existing discontent with the country’s economic situation.… Seguir leyendo » “With crackdown on protests, Russia’s new friend Belarus tightens its grip on power”
Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet US President Donald Trump for the first time on April 6 and 7 at the latter’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach. On the agenda are a number of contentious issues that the two leaders are unlikely to resolve.
Trump has already noted that the meeting is going to be “very difficult”. The first face-to-face meeting between the two leaders will likely not be ideal for reaching consensus on issues such as trade, the North Korean nuclear crisis and the one-China policy.
Human rights and “one China”
Traditionally, the United States has paid much attention to human rights in China, such as its treatment of political dissidents and the arrest of civil rights lawyers.… Seguir leyendo » “Trump-Xi summit is just the start of dealing with thorny issues in US-Sino relations”
The April 3 bombing on the St Petersburg metro was the highest-profile terror attack on Russian soil since a suicide bombing at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport in January 2011. According to Russia’s National Antiterrorism Committee, at least 14 people were killed and 49 injured by an improvised explosive device; further casualties were prevented when a second device was disarmed at another station. Days later, another bomb was found and defused in a residential building.
The prime suspect is reportedly Kyrgyzstan-born Russian citizen Akbarzhon Jalilov, who was identified on CCTV and died in the attack.
The use of explosives and the success of the attack despite heightened security measures – President Putin was in St Petersburg at the time, and national newspapers Izvestiya and Kommersant both reported that the security services had advanced warning that an attack was planned – makes it unlikely he acted alone.… Seguir leyendo » “Russia’s domestic terrorism threat is serious, sophisticated and complex”
By now, the numerous hindrances to Colombia’s peace process are well documented, from the inadequate FARC centralisation zones and the tight disarmament and reintegration schedule to a much-criticised amnesty law and the frequent assassinations of Colombian human rights activists.
But less attention has been paid to the FARC’s internal challenges as this half-century-old Marxist insurgency decommissions its fighters and transitions into peace. Such dynamics are important. For Colombia’s peace to stick, this violent rebel group must successfully become an officially sanctioned political actor.
The FARC now finds itself in the midst of a deep transformation that will alter who it is, how it sees itself and what it does.… Seguir leyendo » “For Colombian rebels, a risky shift from armed revolt to party politics”
Ignoring protest from around the world, the Hungarian government has fast-tracked legislation to tighten rules governing foreign universities operating in the country. The law could force the closure of the Central European University (CEU).
The new law requires foreign universities to gain agreement for their foreign operations from their home government. But US law clearly gives authority for higher education to the states.
The Hungarian law also requires institutions to have a permanent educational program in their country of origin as well as in Hungary. To comply with this, CEU would have to create a new campus in the United States in order to stay open in Budapest.… Seguir leyendo » “Central European University has become the battleground in Hungary’s war of ideas”
On April 1, Germany launched an investigation into the Diyanet, the Turkish government agency in charge of regulating religious activities.
Prosecutors are exploring the possibility that some Diyanet imams in Germany spied on members of the the Gülen movement, an international faith network that follows the Turkish-born, United States-based preacher Fethullah Gülen.
Confidential documents leaked in February 2017 by Austrian politician Peter Pliz suggested that Turkish embassies in over 30 countries across Europe, Africa, Asia and beyond had been sending Diyanet reports on alleged Gülenists residing within their borders.
Witch hunt on the Gülen movement
Turkey’s July 15 2016 attempted coup was a watershed event in the ongoing conflict between Gülen and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.… Seguir leyendo » “Does Turkey use ‘spying imams’ to assert its powers abroad?”
Big Brother does “just want to help” – in Estonia, at least. In this small nation of 1.3 million people, citizens have overcome fears of an Orwellian dystopia with ubiquitous surveillance to become a highly digital society.
The government took nearly all its services online in 2003 with the e-Estonia State Portal. The country’s innovative digital governance was not the result of a carefully crafted master plan, it was a pragmatic and cost-efficient response to budget limitations.
It helped that citizens trusted their politicians after Estonia regained independence in 1991. And, in turn, politicians trusted the country’s engineers, who had no commitment to legacy hardware or software systems, to build something new.… Seguir leyendo » “Welcome to E-Estonia, the tiny nation that’s leading Europe in digital innovation”
Priests are Catholicism’s greatest figures: shepherds who manage the relationship with the divine. But their numbers have been dwindling worldwide since the 1930s.
In Argentina, the Church lost 23% of its priests and nuns from 1960 to 2013. France and Spain have also seen a dramatic reduction in clergy. In Europe, the number of priests declined 3.6% between 2012 and 2015 alone.
The demands of the job are a killer combination today. Between restrictions on sexuality and the loss of priests’ social status, there are ever fewer seminarians and, consequently, ever fewer men of the cloth, particularly in remote regions of the world such as the Amazon, where there is one priest for every 10,000 Catholics.… Seguir leyendo » “Married priests and female deacons? What the Pope’s politics look like from Latin America”
South Korea’s former president, Park Geun-hye, has been arrested on charges including extortion, bribery and abuse of power over an influence-peddling scandal that led to her impeachment by the National Assembly in December 2016. That decision was upheld by the Constitutional Court in March.
An election to decide on her replacement will be held on May 9, and it could see profound changes in South Korean foreign policy.
According to opinion polls, the most likely person to be elected president is opposition leader Moon Jae-in, of the liberal Democratic Party of Korea. A civil rights lawyer (and former Special Forces paratrooper during his military service), Moon was the campaign manager and chief of staff for his friend and political mentor, former president Roh Mu-hyun (February 2003 to March 2004 and May 2004 to February 2008).… Seguir leyendo » “What South Korean president Park’s political demise means for the region’s geopolitics”