Weekly Report: 26 January 2018

Photo: Women protested the government’s failure to comply with a gender quota in the Kenyan government (via africanews.com) Cuba The US announced Tuesday its intention to promote “free and unregulated” internet access in Cuba, according to a statement by the State Department. Internet access in Cuba has long been a controversial and highly restricted subject, and Cuban media has already declared this plan an “attempt to destabilize the island”. Currently, the government has approximately 500 wifi hotspots set up around the country for citizens to use, however all of them are restricted and none of them are free of charge. Furthermore, with a monthly average salary of $25 in the country, the current usage fee of around $2 per hour excludes a huge portion of the population from access. The plan is part of US President Trump’s efforts to redefine the relationship between the countries after many changes made during the Obama era. While the plan was denounced by Cuban Communist Party Newspaper Granma as a move to “subvert Cuba’s internal order”, and covered by the Havana Times with the headline “US Wants to Force Feed Cuba with Free Internet”, articles by younger Cubans tend to see the news rather differently. An op-ed by Yudarkis Veloz Sarduy discusses the exciting developments that more widespread internet access could bring to the island. It describes the government opposition to the US’ decision as a mechanism of subversion, rather than as a benevolent protection of the people’s social order. In any case, both opinions reflect the strong control that the government strives to maintain over the society. In other news from Cuba,...

Public transport moves – also in nonviolence

Photo:  Left: “Members of DYFI ride bullock carts and stage a novel protest against the hike in bus fare in Salem on Sunday.” (E. LakshiNarayanan, via thehindu.com) – Right: “Demonstrators in Sao Paulo, Brazil, carry banners that read in Portuguese “Against the Fare” and “No Rise” during a protest against the bus fare increase.” (Andre Penner / Associated Press, via latimes.com, 2015) An issue that affects almost everyone, that has mobilized people in both the past and present to raise their voices throughout the world, is public transport. This week, hikes in bus fare in Tamil Nadu inspired people to get involved in various cities throughout the Indian state. Students who often led the protests were joined by youth organizations and government employees, among others. Wednesday marked the third consecutive day of protests. Tactics to grab attention, to make their statement against the increase in fares, involved road blocks, demonstrations, the hand-over of a petition – and the riding of bull carts through the streets. Earlier this month, the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) union called for protests at busy train stations throughout the UK over an increase in train fare prices. Late-2017 protesters took to the streets of the Canadian city Winnipeg to oppose a raise in bus fares. Another slightly more dramatic example comes from Peru in 2016. The population of marginal Lima-neighborhood Manchay protested the introduction of a new government-run transportation system that was to replace the existing privately-owned options and would have more than doubled the costs. The inhabitants of Manchay blocked their streets, leading to clashes between police and protestors that involved the use of teargas against civilians, and culminating...

People Power – Women’s Marches Around the World

Picture – Chicago Tribune. “Weekend of women’s marches promises continued momentum” As CANVAS aims to spread the word of “people power” to the world, nonviolent struggle proves a powerful tool for achieving freedom, democracy, and human rights. In line with CANVAS’s mission, this weekend bore witness to a global Women’s March. January 21st, 2018 marked the one-year anniversary of the Women’s March in Washington DC last year. Over the weekend, “thousands of women, femmes, and allies” came together around the world in commemoration and advancement of their cause. Their mission, to “Look Back, March Forward and launch [their] collective 2018 Women’s March agenda: #PowerToThePolls”. The goal is to empower women and their allies, first by having their voices heard through their votes, and then further through their inclusion in positions of influence and power, especially in government. Moreover, the marches also highlighted the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements against sexual assault and harassment. Marching in Solidarity Women, men, and children around the world marched in solidarity this weekend at over 500 events across six continents including in: France, New Zealand, Kyrgyzstan, Zambia, Spain, Ecuador, Italy, the United Kingdom, the US, and more. USA – Dozens of Women’s Marches filled cities across the United States, at which attendees supported and advocated women’s rights and equality. This year’s main focus was on making people’s voices heard by urging supporters and allies to vote in the upcoming midterm elections. The rally held in Las Vegas, Nevada marked the official anniversary rally of last year’s Women’s March held in Washington DC. The main focus was “using activism to generate concrete action at the...

Weekly Report: 19 January 2018

Photo: “Renegade helicopter pilot Oscar Pérez was killed in a nine-hour long siege near the capital, Caracas, on Monday, the Venezuelan government has confirmed.” Though on the run, he attended at least one opposition march. (via BBC News) Democratic Republic of Congo After the UN human rights office called on the DRC to not use force against protests, Congolese police have completely ignored this request. On Friday the 12th of January in the capital Kinshasa, they fired teargas at dozens of churchgoers, who were mourning the deaths of seven people killed in the protests that took place two weeks ago against President Joseph Kabila. This was done supposedly to prevent the gathering from evolving into a political demonstration. As a result of Kabila’s refusal to step down, there have been several protests and consequent deaths and militia violence in the past two years. There is deep fear that the DRC will relapse into civil wars. The persistence of Kabila to remain in power with no mandate and to keep his opposition weak and fragmented is fueling resistance amongst several institutions and groups. For instance, the Catholic church, with broad credibility in the DRC, “has emerged as a lightning rod for opposition” against Kabila. Moreover, as announced by a senior UN official on Wednesday at a news conference in Geneva, militias in eastern DRC are uniting in opposition to Kabila. They, along with additional militia groups in the country, are in agreement with regards to the political agenda and the transition of the DRC without President Kabila. The IOM has furthermore stressed the gravity of the situation in the DRC and that...

Ethiopian Opposition Leader Merera Gudina Freed from Prison

Picture: Al Jazeera. The Omoro people protest their discrimination and disenfranchisement by the Ethiopian government. The leader of the Oromo Federalist Congress, the opposition party representing Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, has been released after spending more than a year in prison. Gudina, a fixture in Ethiopian politics since the 1960s, has spent his career building bridges and fighting for democracy. Along with Gudina, the government has also annulled or pardoned the cases of 115 other politicians. In December 2016, after returning to Ethiopia from Brussels, Gudina was arrested for charges including “association with terrorist groups” that violated the state of emergency in place at the time. Gudina and his supporters claim that the charges were simply an excuse for the government to lock away the opposition, although Ethiopia has always insisted that it holds no political prisoners. Their claim proves extremely difficult to substantiate in this case, as the arrest of Gudina was made upon his return from the European Parliament, where he had criticized the state of emergency in a public address. The state of emergency in question had been implemented as a response to protests in the region of Oromo, where the people demanded that the government open up political space, allow dissent, and tolerate different perspectives. These protests left more than 1000 dead and led to countless arrests without charge. Gudina, among the most prominent of those arrested without clear or justified reason, has long had the Oromo public calling for his release. He has, from his arrest, been a clear ‘political prisoner’ in the eyes of the people. Even though the government has accused him...