Weekly Report, 22 December 2017

As a sign of solidarity and support, residents of eastern Ghouta, but also politicians and activists elsewhere have posted pictures of themselves covering one eye, in tribute to a baby who lost an eye and had his skull crushed during government attacks on his besieged hometown. Credit: AFP/Getty Images Want to sign up and receive our Weekly Report in your mailbox? CLICK HERE Venezuela On Wednesday, Venezuela’s Constituant Assembly ruled that parties who boycotted this month’s local elections had lost legitimacy. By doing so, the pro-government body potentially eliminated the main opposition groups from the 2018 presidential race, as main opposition parties Justice First, Democratic Action and Popular Will did not run candidates in this month’s mayoral polls in protest against what they said was a „biased election system designed to perpetuate leftist President Nicolas Maduro’s dictatorship,” according to Reuters. By doing so, the Assembly ruled, the parties have lost their legal status and should re-apply to the National Election Board. As Venezuela sees more and more of the worlds nations turning against it, the Maduro-regime is looking towards other nations to support their regime. On Thursday, Venezuela’s foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza stated: “Thank God humanity can count on the People’s Republic of China to guarantee peace or at least less conflict,” according to South China Morning Post. The statement came after Arreaza lashed out at Donald Trump, US and EU sanctions, and American interference in Venezuela’s internal affairs at the Venezuelan embassy in Beijing during a three-day official visit. The foreign minister blamed the US for his country’s spiralling debt crisis on Thursday, saying Washington’s “permanent attack” had left the economy crippled. In...

Weekly Report, 15 December 2017

Photo: Harlem Désir, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, this week said that the decision by Poland’s National Broadcasting Council (KRRiT) to impose a fine on one of the country’s leading private independent broadcasters, TVN SA, is unjustified and disproportionate – PhotoCredit: OSCE Did you like this Weekly Report? Please SUBSCRIBE and receive the Weekly Update every week, automatically, by email. The United States of America “A peaceful beginning to the workweek was shattered Monday after an explosion rattled through one of the busiest transit hubs in New York City, causing the authorities to evacuate hundreds of commuters and throwing the morning into chaos,” writes the New York Times. Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke of an attempted terrorist attack and said no other devices had been found. Akayed Ullah, main suspect, made it clear from a hospital bed where he was being treated for burns from the pipe bomb he strapped to his body that he was on a mission to punish the United States for attacking the Islamic State group, said acting US attorney Joon Kim. The suspect had clearly hoped to die in the act, taking as many innocent people as he could with him, but through incredible good fortune, his bomb did not seriously injure anyone other than himself. Also on Monday, a federal judge ruled that transgender people will be able to join the U.S. military as of January 1, 2018. The ruling denies a request by President Donald Trump’s administration to enforce his ban on transgender troops while the government appeals an order that is blocking it. The army members who sued Trump, defence Secretary James Mattis and military leaders in August had been serving openly as transgender people in the U.S. Army, Air Force and...

Weekly Report: 08 December, 2017

Photo: “Opposition presidential candidate Salvador Nasralla gives a speech to thousands of supporters taking part in a demonstration claiming that he won the November 26 elections, near the Supreme Electoral Tribunal in Tegucigalpa on Sunday.” (Photo: Agence France-Presse, via South China Morning Post) Venezuela Last Saturday, members of Venezuela’s government and opposition coalition met in the Dominican Republic to resolve the Venezuela’s political crisis. The parties however failed to reach an agreement and set a new meeting for December 15th. The talks held at the Foreign Ministry in Santo Domingo were “difficult, heavy, hard and full of debate and confrontation” according to opposition political Julio Borges, while Venezuela’s information minister Jorge Rodriguez sounded more hopeful stating his side to be “’deeply satisfied’ with the two-day talks.” Reuters stated that few Venezuelans expect further talks to bring a breakthrough, considering the opposition’s current divided and demoralized state. Opponents have accused President Maduro of exploiting the talks to buy more time, while he accuses the opposition of preferring violence. According to an anonymous source, the two sides did not compromise on any key points. Amidst Venezuela’s deep economic crisis and hyperinflation, Nicolas Maduro announced the introduction of a new crypto-currency in the country, the “Petro”. While Maduro said it is supposed to be backed by oil, gas, gold and diamond reserves, not many other details are known about the currency, which is usually not backed by governments or central banks. The opposition said such plans needed congressional approval and many doubted credibility and any potential success for the plans. “Still, the announcement highlights how sanctions enacted this year by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration are...

Weekly Report: 1 December, 2017

Photo: Pope Francis with Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Naypyidaw. While Francis has stressed the importance of “unity in diversity” while meeting leaders of several faiths as well as the army in Burma, he has made no mention of the violent campaign by the Burmese military against the Rohingya Muslims – Credit: AFP Democratic Republic Congo On Sunday, the Democratic Republic of Congo government banned rallies that were planned this week in the capital Kinshasa, over the extended rule of President Joseph Kabila. Both the coalition in favour of Kabila, as well as the opposition coalition had planned a march, to voice support or disagreement with the delayed elections. Despite concern over a crackdown, the head of the opposition coalition, Felix Tshisekedi, said he would not heed the ban. “There’s no question of depriving us of our rights and freedom,” he tweeted according to the Daily Nation. The opposition march was planned for Thursday this week. Then on Monday, AFP reports that a group of influential bishops in the DRC urged President Joseph Kabila to pledge he will not seek a third term in office in order to ease fears of unrest. The Catholic church plays an important role in the country, as bishops last year already tried to help broker a deal under which elections for a new president would be held in 2017. In a statement, the bishops stated that “It is essential, on the grounds of (demonstrating) sincere political will, to reassure the Congolese people and international partners by providing guarantees that elections will effectively be held.” On that same day, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations published their latest DRC-situation report. The report displays the unrest of the last month and...

Weekly Report: 24 November, 2017

Photo: People cheering in the streets of Zimbabwe where longstanding President Robert Mugabe resigned (BBC) Zimbabwe After the military coup halfway last week, things developed fast in Zimbabwe this week. Mass protests on the weekend, calling for the resignation of Robert Gabriel Mugabe, united the whole of the country. However, looking at the protest signs of the Zimbabwean people, a unity of purpose for when Mugabe would be gone was hard to find. Zimbabwe reacted in shock when, on Sunday, Mugabe amazed and infuriated the country by apparently resisting calls to step aside. However, an official source with direct knowledge of the ongoing negotiations told CNN that Zimbabwe’s long-time president has agreed to the terms of his resignation and a letter has been drafted. According to the source, the aim of Sunday’s televised speech, was to ensure the veteran leader openly declared the military’s actions to be constitutional. Despite the disappointing speech, the end of the Mugabe era seemed a matter of time. Then on Tuesday, the long-awaited news came. Robert Mugabe officially resigned as the President of Zimbabwe, after ruling party ZANU-PF already sacked him as their leader.  Mass-celebrations broke out all over the country, and the eye of the world was focused on Zimbabwe. Looking towards the future, however, one could be more skeptical. Emmerson Mnangagwa seems to be in the most prominent position to be Zimbabwe’s next leader. As Steven Feldstein puts it, “Mnangagwa is massively invested in ensuring his continued and unfettered access to power, which has proven highly lucrative for him. The vice president is “reputed” to be one of Zimbabwe’s richest people. All of this suggests he might become yet another dictator.” So what should we expect for the future of Zimbabwe? And more importantly, how can the forces in Zimbabwean society pushing for democratic reform make...

Weekly Report: 17 November, 2017

Photo: Ruling Party tensions reached a peak this week in Zimbabwe, when the military forced Robert Mugabe off the stage after 37 years in power – Photograph: Philimon Bulawayo_Reuters   Zimbabwe Martha O’ Donavan, the American woman who’s arrest CANVAS reported on last week, has been granted bail last Friday. O’ Donavan’s, who is charged with subversion over allegedly insulting President Robert Mugabe on Twitter, her bail was set on $1,000. According to the Washington Post, she did not speak to reporters as she emerged from a prison in the capital, Harare, and left in a U.S. Embassy vehicle. As are the conditions attached to her bail, O’Donovan had to hand over her passport to the Zimbabwean authorities, and has to report to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) on Monday and Friday. On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch releases a small report on the most recent clamp down on media in Zimbabwe, calling on the government to create an independent body to impartially investigate police abuses against journalists. Also late last week, AfricanArguments.org release an opinion-piece by Blessing Miles Tendi, on the role the British authorities might have played in the lay-off of former vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa. “With Mnangagwa’s dismissal,” Tendi argues, “the UK’s alleged strategy [to support Mnangagwa as Zimbabwe’s next president] has not only clearly failed, but its perceived backing for Mnangagwa prompted outrage among many Zimbabweans, further weakening the UK’s image in the country. Moreover, its support for Mnangagwa may have even contributed to his downfall.” Tendi moves on to argue that, besides the fact that UK-meddling in the presidential succession process is a known stick used by Mugabe, the UK should have recognized that associating itself with Mnangagwa would provoke heated domestic opposition because the controversial Mnangagwa has a long history of human rights abuses and violence. Early this week, Reuters covered a piece by MacDonald Dzirutwe, relating to...