Laughtivism in Zimbabwe! #HomwePanze or the #PocketsOutCampaign is the latest nonviolent protest in Zimbabwe. Today (Friday), citizens all over Zimbabwe made a statement about the nearing economic crisis. To show the world how the current economic challenges have made many Zimbabweans poor and broke, one only has to do three simple things:
Wear clothing with pockets
Pull out your pockets
Proceed with your daily routines!
“The state gets terrified! For a silly thing like pulling out your pockets. The raided the offices of the rural teachers-union today. That is ridiculous! It shows the kind of police-state we are in. But there is nothing they can do to an ordinary citizen. Because there is nothing illegal about keeping your pockets out, right?” stated Zimbabwean activist Doug Coltart in a little video on his Twitter.
The campaign comes in a week in which Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa stated that the government will tighten control over use of social media. In the light of the latest developments in the Mawarire-case, authorities blame social media for fueling shortages of basic commodities and bank notes in the country. By making ‘false’ claims over social media, the minister claimed, ‘faceless saboteurs’ caused panic in the country. Government maintained the position that the Zimbabwean economy is in a sound state.
Photo: Late last week, Trump called on NFL owners to dismiss players who choose to kneel in protest during the national anthem. Famous basketball-players like Michael Jordan, LeBron James and Stephen Curry are now face to face with the President. Photograph: NBC News
On Wednesday, The International Commission of Jurists, or ICJ, has called on the Maldives to revoke the suspension of 54 lawyers, adding that the mass suspension is incompatible with international law and standards. An open letter, signed by the Commission’s secretary general Sam Zarifi, condemned the suspension, emphasizing that it must be revoked unconditionally. It further called on the Supreme Court and the Department of Judicial Administration (DJA) to revoke the suspension “and ensure any disciplinary proceedings against lawyers comply with the Maldives’ obligations under international standards”.
On Wednesday, hundreds of police and soldiers descended on the island of Villingili in Gaafu Alif atoll ahead of a visit from President Abdulla Yameen, cracking down on opposition protesters by removing banners and placards. Around 300 security officers, some armed, were sent to Villingili two days prior to Yameen’s arrival. Members of the ruling party were allegedly “intervened and blocked the opposition” from protesting.
On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch claimed that Myanmar is committing crimes against humanity in its campaign against Muslim insurgents in Rakhine state, and it called for the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions and an arms embargo. Human Rights Watch said its research, supported by analysis of satellite imagery, had found crimes of deportation and forced population transfers, murder and attempted murder, rape and other sexual assault and persecution.
The United Nations says a planned visit to Myanmar’s Rakhine state, which has seen a mass exodus of Rohingya Muslims, has been cancelled by the authorities. The visit would have been the first by UN officials to the area since violence broke out on 25 August. UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Wednesday, before the cancellation, that chiefs of UN agencies were due to take part in the trip, which he hoped would be “a first step towards much freer and wider access to the area”.
Cambodia’s main opposition party on Monday put up banners around the country calling for the release of its detained leader Kem Sokha in a challenge to the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen, which has accused him of treason.
On Tuesday, U.N. official responsible for monitoring human rights in Cambodia said the countries government must do more to protect democratic freedoms in the run-up to national elections scheduled for next year. In a report submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council, special rapporteur Rhona Smith proved violent rhetoric and threats directed by prime minister Hun Sen against the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) and its supporters, along with the jailing on questionable charges of opposition figures.
On Sunday, new travel-bans were imposed by the Trump-administration. Contrary to the former ban, the one that will go into effect on October 18 will have no end date! Activists claim that adding North Korea and Venezuela to the list is a simple way of the Trump administration to get around the accusations of the ban being directed against Muslims in particular. Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Somalia were left on the list of affected countries in a new proclamation issued by the president. Restrictions on citizens from Sudan were lifted.
Another hot news item in the U.S. this week was Donald Trump’s reaction to the peaceful activism by sports figures, kneeling during the national anthem in protest of racial inequality and injustice. Late last week, Trump called on NFL owners to dismiss players who choose to kneel in protest during the national anthem. Famous basketball-players like Michael Jordan, LeBron James and Stephen Curry are now face to face with the President.
On Tuesday, Venezuela’s political opposition said it wouldn’t send representatives to the next round of scheduled talks with government officials. The accuse the country’s president, Nicolas Maduro, of failing to follow through on human rights commitments and electoral guarantees. They also accused the president of failing to nominate an independent third observer to facilitate any eventual negotiations. The opposition refuses to back away from their demand that elections will be held at the end 2018 at the latest. It also insists that hundreds of political prisoners will be released.
Where Nicolas Maduro called Donald Trump “the new Hitler” last week, Venezuela’s top diplomat on Monday accused Donald Trump of acting like “the world’s emperor”, batting back the US president’s biting rebukes of Venezuela on the global stage of the UN General Assembly. “As if he were the world’s emperor, the president of the United States, Donald Trump, used this podium built for peace to announce wars, total destruction of member states” and “coercive measures, threatening and judging as if he had absolute, dictatorial powers over the sovereign member states of our organization”, Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said. The Trump-administration slapped sweeping economic sanctions on Venezuela last month, and the president said he wouldn’t rule out military action against the country.
On Monday, a Human Rights Watch-report came out on two aerial attacks near Raqqa, Syria in March. The bombings killed at least 84 civilians, including 30 children, and raised concerns that US-led coalition forces fighting the extremist armed group Islamic State (also known as ISIS) did not take adequate precautions to minimize civilian casualties.
On Tuesday, the Syrian government declared it is open to negotiations with Kurds over their demand for autonomy within Syria’s borders. The foreign minister Moualem reiterated his government’s rejection of the Iraqi Kurdi referendum, saying Damascus supported Iraqi unity, but he noted that Syria’s Kurds “want a form of autonomy within the borders of the Syrian Arab Republic”.
On Wednesday, www.wired.com releases a long-read on Bassel Khartabil, a Palestinian-Syrian who fought for freedom in Syria using the Free Internet, which cost him his life in October 2015. People like Khartabil were convinced that by documenting and broadcasting what was happening, using their real names, other countries would intervene. “We thought if we only reported what was happening to international news, and the UN saw, we thought it would end. Then we saw that the whole world is a liar, and humanity is a lie.” Read more about this hero of the Syrian revolution via the link below.
On Sunday, Pastor Evan Mawarire was arrested at HIS Generation Church in Milton Park Harare, where he ministers. The police arrived and picked up the activist directly after the morning-service. Mawarire, who is making waves in Zimbabwe since he founded the #ThisFlag-movement in April 2016, was taken to Harare Central police station and first charged with inciting violence, then with attempting to subvert a constitutionally elected government. The direct cause according to the authorities was a live video Mawarire did the day before, on the worsening economic situation in the country. After two days in custody, Mawarire was released on Tuesday after the court decided that he was not brought before the court within the legal 48-hour term.
On Wednesday, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa stated that the government will tighten control over use of social media. In the light of the latest developments in the Mawarire-case, authorities blame social media for fueling shortages of basic commodities and bank notes in the country. By making ‘false’ claims over social media, the minister claimed, ‘faceless saboteurs’ caused panic in the country. Government maintained the position that the Zimbabwean economy is in a sound state.
Meanwhile, the infighting within the ruling party ZANU-PF continues. Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa has given Higher and Tertiary Education minister Jonathan Moyo a seven-day ultimatum to retract allegations that the veteran politician forced a prominent broadcaster to jump from the second floor of a Harare building, leaving him paralyzed for life. However, a defiant Moyo yesterday said he was ready to meet the VP in court, signaling what could be the beginning of a bruising legal battle between the two Zanu PF politicians who are at loggerheads over Mugabe’s succession.
Finally, The Standard reports on similar struggles in main opposition party MDC-T over the succession of its leader Morgan Tsvangirai. University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Eldred Masunungure said the Zanu PF culture of one centre of power appeared to also be MDC-T’s biggest challenge. MDC-T is facing the same predicament as Zanu PF in dealing with the replacement of its ailing leader, the leading political analyst has said.
On Tuesday, 45 Congolese and international human rights organizations called on the national authorities to immediately and unconditionally release nine Congolese human rights and pro-democracy activists wrongfully detained for their participation in peaceful activities. “The Congolese authorities have thrown activists in jail for joining peaceful protests calling for elections and for Congo’s constitution to be respected. The government should release them immediately and ensure that all Congolese have the right to peacefully demonstrate and express their political views,” said Ida Sawyer, Central Africa director at Human Rights Watch. In addition to human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists, the government has targeted political opposition leaders and supporters, journalists, and people suspected of having links to the political opposition. Many have been held for weeks or months in secret detention, without charge and without access to families or lawyers.
Meanwhile, the cholera-epidemic that broke out early September has not seen its end yet. On Tuesday, MSF reports that Since the cholera epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was declared on 9 September, they have treated over 17,000 people. The organization warns that, now the rainy season is coming, the virus spreads even faster and can lead to a critical situation.
On Monday, the voting began in northern Iraq in an independence referendum organized by Kurdish authorities. Turnout among 5.2 million eligible voters was 78 percent, the Kurdish Rudaw TV station said, and vote-counting had started. The national regime in Baghdad, as well as Turkey and Iran, do not agree with the referendum, openly threatening its organizers. More internationally there was the fear that the vote may ignite yet more regional conflict. Final results were announced within 72 hours. As expected, the Kurds overwhelmingly voted in favor of independence from Iraq.
Uganda – Protests over the planned amendment of the Constitution to lift the presidential age-limit spread over the country of Uganda this week. – https://mg.co.za/article/2017-09-26-ugandan-police-shut-down-protests-over-presidential-age-limit-bill/
South Africa – On Wednesday, thousands of South Africans will march against corruption under President Jacob Zuma’s rule, in protests led by unions which have backed a rival to the president’s faction as the next leader of the ANC. – https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/09/thousands-march-corruption-south-africa-170927092332199.html
Poland – On Monday, the European Commission called for Poland to seek European legal advice on two draft judicial reform laws put forward by President Andrzej Duda, to check that they comply with European democratic standards. – https://www.reuters.com/article/us-poland-judiciary-eu/eu-calls-for-legal-commission-to-vet-new-polish-judicial-reform-laws-idUSKCN1C0205?il=0
Rwanda – Early on Friday, Human Rights Watch reports on Rwandan authorities arresting, forcibly disappearening, and threatened political opponents since the August 2017 presidential elections. Those targeted include a would-be independent presidential candidate, Diane Rwigara, and her family members and supporters, and several leaders and members of the Forces démocratiques unifiées (FDU)-Inkingi opposition party – https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/09/28/rwanda-post-election-political-crackdown
Three years after the origination of the Umbrella-movement, pro-democracy activism in Hong Kong continues. On the third birthday of the movement, several protests and gatherings are organized. Not only to remember the harsh crack-down by the authorities three years ago, but also to continue the fight for more democratic rights in the autonomous territory. The repressive government reaction on the protests have had a chilling effect on peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. “Three years on from the start of the unprecedented 79-day protest in late 2014, scores of protesters, who were arrested for their involvement in the largely peaceful protests, remain in legal limbo, uncertain if they will face charges,” Amnesty International reports.
This, however, does not withhold Hong Kong activist to organize a new range of protests around the three year anniversairy of the movement. Civic groups are to host a rally outside the government headquarters on Thursday to commemorate the birth of the pro-democracy Occupy protests. They will stand still for three minutes at 5:58pm – the exact time tear gas canisters were shot at protesters. “Although the Occupy movement was forced to stop, Hong Kong people’s demand for genuine universal suffrage will never stop. We hope Hong Kong people will continue the spirit of the Umbrella Movement,” Citizen Charter 617-activist James Hon said.
Read about the other creative protests that will be organized in Hong Kong during the next weeks here.
Photo: Opposition Leader Morgan Tsvangirai denies alligations of a secret deal with Zanu PF’s embattled Vice President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, to form a coalition government outside of elections. Photograph: www.zimbabwesituation.com
Earlier this month, opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said it had no plans to join factions of the ruling ZANU-PF party to form a national unity coalition after the eventual death of 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe. A Reuters investigation revealed that Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, favourite to succeed Mugabe, has been looking to build a broad coalition that would kickstart the economy by reintegrating thousands of white farmers booted off their land in the early 2000s. However, the MDC said it would never consider joining an administration that was not the product of an election. “While stability is important, President Tsvangirai and the MDC have always placed a far higher premium on legitimacy and democracy,” a statement said.
In the meantime, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) finally rolled out their long expacted Biometric Voter Registration system, to compile a new voter’s role. The commission plans to register more than 7 million Zimbabweans by January. These plans, however, are met with scorn, as it has only a quarter of the registrations kits needed available at the moment. Zimbabweans are sceptical and see the BVR-technology as a new way for the ruling party to rig the 2018 elections.
Finally, this week there was an upsurge of indignation about several members of the Mugabe family and their spending behaviour. For Zimbabwe, the 72nd United Nations General Assembly has been characterized by controversies over the expenditure of President Robert Mugabe’s sons in Harare and New York. In a country in which the economic crisis is worsening still, Grace Mugabe’s son Russell Gorereza welcomed two new luxury cars to his fleet of vehicles last Friday, receiving a lot of criticism online. President Mugabe himself took along a 70-member delegation, including his wife Grace Mugabe, to participate in the UNGA, where his son Bellarmine Chatunga was spotted shopping in the city with a bodyguard carrying his shopping bags.
On Monday, the New York based Congo Research Group (CRG) released a report on the killing of hundreds of people around Beni, in north-eastern DRC, between 2014-2016. The report claims that Congolese army commanders orchestrated the wave of massacres, as they vied for influence with anti-government insurgents in north-eastern DRC. The report is the first of its kind to offer a definite theory of the perpetrators’ motives, of these violent incidents that have “largely been shrouded in mystery.” The report also reflects on the role of the UN Peacekeeping mission in the specific area.
On Wednesday, i.a. AlJazeera reports on an incident in South-Kivu, where Congolese security forces opened fire on a group of protesting Burundian refugees. “At least 39 people – including a 10-year-old girl – were killed and 94 others wounded.” After the arrest of four Burundian refugees, allegedly holding ‘weapons’, Burundian refugees and asylum seekers living in the area left their camps and went to the office of the National Intelligence Agency to protest the detainment of the four men. The Congolese government claims that the army was attacked by armed persons and not refugees.
In this same week, President Joseph Kabila, has travelled to the restive Kasai region to attend a forum for peace. The eastern Kasai region has been home to armed clashes over the last year. Militia and state forces have engaged in running battles that have led to deaths and displaced thousands. The main opposition have criticized the forum describing it as a mini rally for the ruling party.
While anti-Trump protests did not take off full speed yet earlier this week at the UN General Assembly, the President’s speech caused for the main headlines in the beginning of the past week. While running for office, Trump had labelled the UN weak and incompetent. In his first speech at the UNGA, Trump literally put America first, also encouraging other nations to use their national sovereignty “to do more to ensure the prosperity and security of their own countries.”
Earlier this week, violent clashes erupted between police and protesters after a memorial vigil for a Georgia Tech student, who was killed by campus officers late last week. The Georgia Tech shooting happened as police across the United States are facing protests and scrutiny over the use of deadly force.
Donald Trump at the UNGA called the collapsing situation in Venezuela “completely unacceptable”. Adding to the escalating relationship with the regime of President Maduro, Trump warned that the United States was considering what further actions it can take. “We cannot stand by and watch,” he said.
At the same time, China strengthens its ties with the Southern-American nation. On Tuesday, on the side-lines of a U.N. meeting, Chinese foreign Minister Wang told Venezuelan Foreign Affairs Minister Jorge Arreaza that China’s strategic partnership with Venezuala will not change. China adheres the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries. Venezuela’s government and people should have the ability to resolve problems via talks within a legal framework and protect national stability, according to the Chinese Foreign Minister.
In Venezuela itself, opposition parties blamed President Nicolas Maduro’s government for the death of a sick activist in detention, saying he was framed and then denied medical help. Carlos Garcia, a local legislator in western Apure state, suffered a stroke in August after being arrested in late 2016 during protests. Venezuela’s opposition parties accuse the Maduro-regime of being dictatorial and maintaining hundreds of political prisoners on trumped-up charges.
On Tuesday, militants assault government targets in Hama-province, complicating cease-fire talks. Militants linked to al-Qaeda (Hayat Tahrir al-Sham) started a large-scale offensive against government targets in western Syria, state media and opposition activists said. The violence could potentially impede international efforts to quell fighting in that part of the country. Iran, Russia and Turkey are in a month-long process of establishing “de-escalation zones” in four regions of Syria, including parts of Hama and Idlib, which hosts a growing number of displaced civilians, according to Washington Post.
A renewed attempt for peace in Syria did not seem to be at the top of the list in the first days of the UNGA in New York, as newly installed French President Macron tried to set up an international contact-group on Syria, to revive stalled peace talks in Geneva. Trump’s anti-Iran stance, however, has partly complicated those efforts.
Also at the UNGA, The United States, Britain and other countries opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad claimed they will not support the reconstruction of the country until there is a political transition that moves away from Assad. This stance of the “Friends of Syria” group opposes the stance of Iran and Russia, who support an ‘Assad-inclusive’ solution for the Syrian crisis.
In Spain, the battle between the federal government in Madrid and Catalonia’s regional government over the independence referendum continues. Catalonia’s regional authorities plan to hold a vote on independence on October 1, despite Spain’s Constitutional Court having ruled the ballot illegal as it would defy the nation’s constitutional decree declaring Spain indivisible. This week, Madrid added to the escalation of the conflict by seizing more than a million pro-referendum posters and pamphlets in Catalonia, after ordering a criminal investigation into the 712 Catalan mayors who have agreed to help stage the referendum on September 14. State police arrested several Catalonian officials on Wednesday, in an unprecedented raid of regional government offices. The Catalonian authorities claim that this behaviour from Madrid intimidates both local mayors as well as media, according to Al Jazeera. Following Wednesday’s raids by the Guardia Civil, tens of thousands of protesters gathered outside the regional government offices in central Barcelona as well as in several Catalan cities, waving the red-and-yellow Catalan flag and chanting “Occupying forces out” and “Where is Europe?”. On Thursday, several hundred people gathered in front of the High Court of Justice of Catalonia to demand the release of the dozen officials arrested.
Early this week, an interesting piece from the hand of Omkar Khandekar on Indian news-platform Scroll appeared, on the increasing politicisation of the judiciary under President Yameen. At the end of August, a 14-point petition endorsed by 56 lawyers outlining concerns about the deteriorating state of the judiciary in the country, was presented to the Supreme Court. “Predictably, the petition wasn’t accepted. But more shockingly, on September 10, the Department of Judicial Administration – controlled by the Supreme Court – suspended all signatories, which together reportedly make up a third of all practicing lawyers in the Maldives, over charges of contempt and for gathering in a manner that “obstructs the independence of justice system”, without explaining how, Khandekar writes. The lawyers’ effort was part of a larger plan: to kick-start a series of awareness workshops, TV appearances and mount pressure on the judiciary to initiate reforms, through the civil society and diplomatic channels, starting with a photo-op outside the Supreme Court. Read the full article by Khandekar via the link below.
The ongoing prosecution of Rohingya in Myanmar was one of the top-priorities at the United Nations General Assembly this week. On Wednesday, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence accused the Myanmar military of responding to militant attacks “with terrible savagery, burning villages, driving the Rohingya from their homes.” Pence called the crisis a threat to the world and said U.S. President Donald Trump wanted the U.N. Security Council to take “strong and swift action” to the violence.
Bangladesh’s prime minister Sheikh Hasina accused Myanmar of ethnic cleansing of its Rohingya people and urged the country to allow the return of the refugees. Bangladesh is now sheltering over 800,000 Rohingya, of whom 430,000 had arrived in the past three weeks. The PM urgently called on the UN to create safe zones in in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. In the meantime, Aung San Suu Kyi’s first public speech on the Rohingya-crisis has been receive with lots of scepticism worldwide. The human-rights icon and Nobel laureate, now the de facto leader of Myanmar’s civilian government, did not condemn the atrocities so far. Now, Instead of reaching out to the Rohingya, she questioned the international outcry itself. Her government, she said, was “concerned” about reports of villages burning in Rakhine, but had to weigh “allegations and counterallegations” before taking action. According to Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, her speech “tried to sugarcoat ethnic cleansing.”
Late this week, AlJazeera reports on the regressing media freedom in Cambodia. Nearly a dozen stations have had licenses suspended without notice, ahead of 2018 election. Especially Cambodia’s poorest and most remote populations remain heavily reliant on radio for independent news, also now television is almost entirely dominated by parties affiliates to the government. Other organisations are also under pressure, Al Jazeera reports. The Cambodia Daily – the country’s highly regarded, longest-running English daily newspaper – shut its doors on September 4 after being ordered to pay a $6.3m tax bill that many believe to be politically motivated. Last week, Mother Nature, a prominent environmental group, suspended its operations citing ongoing harassment.
On the side-lines of the United Nations General Assembly, the Oslo Freedom Forum organized their first ever meeting in New York, on September 19th. OFF offered a platform for riveting talks, world-class networking, interactive exhibits, music, art, comedy, and conversations between courageous activists and leaders from business, philanthropy, technology, and media. The Young TurksPolitics Reporter Nomiki Konst spoke with Srdja Popovic about how to successfully lead a peaceful revolution in one’s country.
Read more about the Oslo Freedom Forum in New York here.
The power of humor in nonviolent protest! In Odisha, a very unusual form of protest has kept politicians on their toes and security-forces on point! In the Eastern Indian province. egg-pelting (throwing eggs as a form of protest) has been reported over 15 times in the last two years. Targeting political figures from the ruling Biju Janata Dal state political party with the egg attacks gave the security apparatus a firm scare. “The police’s intelligence wing worked overtime to sensitise routes taken by politicians, particularly to interior regions, restricting sale of eggs by roadside stalls. Some policemen were even suspended for failing to prevent the attacks,” according to Priya Ranjan Sahu. Biju Janata Dal’s MP from Bhubaneswar Prasanna Patasani went to the extent of equating the egg attackers with terrorists and demanded that they be charged with attempt to murder!
Read Priya Ranjan Sahu’s full article on www.scroll.in here.
Back to last week, when thousands of protesters in London took action against the Defence and Security Equipment International, or DSEI. As the arms fair prepared to open its doors at the Excel centre in London’s Docklands, a diverse array of participants led to a wide range of creative and humorous actions.
DESI is billed as the world’s largest arms fair, where buyers and sellers of arms to network and make preliminary deals. Although no actual trade takes place, this year’s four-day event will be attended by around 34,000 people from the world’s arms companies, militaries and government representatives, including military delegations from countries with appalling human rights records and countries at war.
Wagingnonviolence.org gives us an insight into several of the nonviolent tactics used to mobilize a diverse group of people and the end-goals of the protests organized against DESI. It also answers the question why the preparations for the arms fair were targeted, instead of the event itself. Read the full article here.
Photo: Dancers block a vehicle as part of the “Festival of Resistance to Stop DSEI” on Sept. 9. (CAAT/Paige Ofosu)
At what was supposed to be the first big protest against Donald Trump’s appearance in New York for the UN General Assembly, fewer than 1,000 protesters attended.
“It’s kind of like battle fatigue. People are worn out.’’
Are people tired of protesting against their president? How can the popular campaign against the Trump presidency stay energized?
Read the full article from Barbara Demick for Los Angeles Times here.
(PhotoCredits Barbara Demick)
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