Month: April, 2017
It is Not Just North Korea But Asia That is in US Crosshairs
| April 26, 2017 | 1:40 pm | Donald Trump, DPRK, political struggle | No comments
A TV screen shows pictures of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, right, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016

It is Not Just North Korea But Asia That is in US Crosshairs

© AP Photo/ Ahn Young-joon
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Imagine that you lead the US deep state, and you are observing the real-time flow of Western technology, industry and next-generation skills to the East with alarm. How will you reverse this trend with one master stroke and temporarily staunch the decline of Pax Americana?

Mathew Maavak — A rapid socio-economic meltdown across Asia might produce this hypothetical outcome, and this is where the current North Korean “crisis” may provide an opening gambit.Amidst “rising tensions” on the Korean Peninsula – while South Koreans are concerned with noodles, not nukes – the United States has pre-emptively decided what is best for the region.

But the US war machinery is vacillating for good reasons and is unable to get its narrative and geography right. On April 11, President Donald J. Trump supposedly despatched an “armada” to counter North Korean provocations, right after striking Syria. Yet the “armada” led by the USS Vinson was discovered drifting in the opposite direction in the Sunda Strait. This is nothing serious that can’t be solved by hiring an American navigator who actually knows geography and game theorists with winning permutations on PlayStations.

The Not So Great Armada
© Sputnik/
The Not So Great Armada

The US armada is back on course for a showdown in the Korean Peninsula.

Gaming out the Attack on North Korea

A pre-emptive naval strike against North Korea is the most likely option pursued if the madmen prevail in Washington. The strategic calculus here is “yuge” in its simplistic crudity: any North Korean retaliation may result in massive civilian casualties and Twitter-generated sympathies for the US-South Korea alliance.

Pyongyang has no other option. It will need to take out the Yongsan Garrison in Seoul which hosts the United States Forces Korea (USFK) headquarters, particularly the Combined Forces Command (CFC).

As Globalsecurity.org succinctly puts it: “The role of Combined Forces Command (CFC) during the armistice is to deter war. CFC’s wartime role is to defeat external aggression. The CFC is commanded by a four-star US general, with a four-star ROK Army general as deputy commander. Throughout the command structure, binational manning is readily apparent: if the chief of a staff section is Korean, the deputy is American and vice versa. This integrated structure exists within the component commands as well as the headquarters. All CFC components are tactically integrated through continuous combined and joint planning, training and exercises.”

Any unilateral US strike on North Korea would automatically drag South Korea as a junior partner in a war it never desired, simply because the Americans wrote all the rules of engagement since the 1953 armistice.

The Yongsan garrison is only a 3-minute drive away from Seoul’s financial center and straddles heavily populated areas. For decades, US-scripted propaganda had invoked the specter of millions of South Korean casualties from Pyongyang’s artillery range. Lost in this giddy script are the war crimes committed by US troops against the Korean people during the 1950-53 war. Was the CFC using 25 million people in the greater Seoul metropolitan area as human shields against North Korea? High civilian casualties are guaranteed in the event of a conflict as Pyongyang’s projectiles lack precision-guidance.Due to this manifest danger, the US was pressured for years to relocate the CFC to Pyeongtaek. But this will not happen before 2019 and by then, the US Army would probably be battling its own impoverished citizens back home.

Time is running out to take down Asia.

Rise of the Taeguk Warrior

Some genius in Washington may have been inspired by a redux of the orchestrated “Mi-Guk, Mi-Guk” (Mi-Guk is Korean for the United States) chants that greeted US soldiers in the 50s.

The modern reality is vastly different. South Korea (and Japan) is awash with anti-American undercurrents. During the 2006 World Cup in Germany, US army personnel in Yongsan were advised by their commanders to avoid passionate South Korean fans who would gather in their tens of thousands to watch giant open air live telecasts of their national team in action. There was a good precedent for this injunction: During the 2002 World Cup, a US military vehicle struck and killed two young schoolgirls in Seoul, sparking an unprecedented outburst of anti-Americanism that combined explosively with soccer-fuelled nationalism.These are South Korea’s Taeguk warriors. Imagine how they will react once even 200 South Koreans are killed in a tit-for-tat military exchange between Uncle Samael and Kim Jong-un? The lives of South Koreans naturally matter less to American uber-patriots like Senators John “I hate those Gooks” McCain and Lindsey Graham who was the “happiest dude in America” after the April 6 attack on Syria.

There is something more that may make Graham, McCain, Trump and the 130 million Americans who elected them even happier: the destruction of a thriving multi-trillion dollar Asian economy that is eclipsing the West in unprecedented ways.

There is no way the West will countenance an ascendant Asia, and it has been probing every possible geo-economic Achilles Heel to bring the East to heel. The War on Terror now appears like a botched US-Saudi plot to control the flow of fossil fuel to an energy-dependent Asia. Yet, instead of allowing its destinies to be controlled, Asian nations launched a series of strategic fuel and grain reserve programs since the 9/11 terror attacks. Asia can no longer be held to joint US-Saudi petrol blackmail as long as Iran, Russia and Venezuela continue to pump and export oil and gas to the rest of the world. The demonization of these nations, therefore, should not come as a surprise.From a geostrategic viewpoint, it is not the Westward contours of Middle Eastern pipelines that may have worried Washington and its hordes but rather the unfettered flow of Iranian and Russian oil to an ascendant Asia. Syria alone would have done well with untold millions levied on pipelines traversing its territory. Alternative motives behind the Arab Spring and Maidan coup should re-considered in the light of an Asian contagion that may be sparked off in the Korean peninsula.

 

Mathew Maavak is a writer and geopolitical observer residing in Malaysia.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.

Sanders, Dems introduce $15 minimum wage bill

 

Tim Devaney
 
Sanders, Dems introduce $15 minimum wage bill© Provided by The Hill Sanders, Dems introduce $15 minimum wage bill Democrats are uniting behind Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in a legislative push to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour.

Sanders will reintroduce a $15 minimum wage bill Wednesday, attracting support from some Democrats such as Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.), who previously supported a smaller minimum wage increase.

Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Bobby Scott (D-Va.) will drop a companion bill in the House. Ellison has previously pushed for $15 an hour, while Scott joined Murray in calling for a $12 minimum wage hike last Congress.

The $15 minimum wage bill stands little chance of passing in a Republican-controlled Congress, but could put pressure on GOP lawmakers to stand up for workers.

Sanders and the Democrats will rally Wednesday outside the Capitol building with a group of striking workers. The low-wage federal workers claim President Trump’s labor policies have started a “war on workers.”

Africa/Global: Media Repression 2.0
| April 25, 2017 | 9:12 pm | Africa | No comments

Africa/Global: Media Repression 2.0

AfricaFocus Bulletin
April 25, 2017 (170425)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor’s Note

“In the days when news was printed on paper, censorship was a crude
practice involving government officials with black pens, the seizure
of printing presses and raids on newsrooms. The complexity and
centralization of broadcasting also made radio and television
vulnerable to censorship even when the governments didn’t exercise
direct control of the airwaves. … New information technologies–
the global, interconnected internet; ubiquitous social media
platforms; smart phones with cameras–were supposed to make
censorship obsolete. Instead, they have just made it more
complicated.” – Joel Simon, Committee to Protect Journalists, April
25, 2017

The 2017 Attacks on the Press report from the Committee to Protect
Journalists, just released today and entitled “The New Face of
Censorship,” speaks of issues faced both by old and new media in
countries around the world. Joel Simon’s opening article refers to
“Repression 2.0,” and like Repression 1.0 includes centuries-old
technologies such as murder and imprisonment of journalists as well
as those mentioned in the paragraph above. But it also includes
shutting down social media (or the entire internet), harassment by
automated bots or targeted attacks on web sites, or economic
pressures through withdrawal of state advertising in targeted
newspapers.

The CPJ report is available on-line at
https://cpj.org/2017/04/attacks-on-the-press.php

Most of the chapters apply worldwide, and are available at the  link
above.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains links to several chapters
specifically on Africa in the CPJ report, and several articles
focused specifically on the situation in Cameroon and in Zambia.
Another AfricaFocus Bulletin sent out earlier today, and available
at http://www.africafocus.org/docs17/zam1704.php, has several
reports on the current political crisis in Zambia, involving
repression both of media and of opposition leaders.

On Cameroon see also

http://tinyurl.com/kpkmzpt for Le Monde April 21 article (in
French): “Après trois mois de coupure, Internet est de retour dans
la partie anglophone du Cameroun”

and Amnesty International news flash on April 24 on the sentencing
by a military court of radio journalist Ahmed Abba to ten years in
prison (http://tinyurl.com/lwujatz).

On the use of advertising as a weapon, see also the April 18 article
by George Ogola, with particular reference to the case of Kenya *
http://tinyurl.com/mfbpa84).

To see the full issue in the new format visit
http://mailchi.mp/igc/media-repression-2

Please check on “subscribe in the upper left-hand corner to
opt-in to receive the full Bulletin in the new format in the future.

+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!

NOTE: AfricaFocus is making a transition to a new more user-friendly
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So please make sure you are among those getting
the new format as soon as possible by opting in now. Once you
subscribe to the new format, your email will be removed from the old
list receiving this plain text format.

To see today’s and earlier Bulletins in the new format, visit
http://tinyurl.com/AfricaFocusArchive

*****************************************************

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication
providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a
particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus
Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

AfricaFocus Bulletin can be reached at africafocus@igc.org.For more
information about reposted material, please contact directly the
original source mentioned. For a full archive and other resources,
see http://www.africafocus.org

Zambia: From Democracy to Dictatorship?
| April 25, 2017 | 9:08 pm | Africa | No comments

Zambia: From Democracy to Dictatorship?

AfricaFocus Bulletin
April 25, 2017 (170425)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor’s Note

“Our country is now all, except in  designation, a dictatorship and
if it is not yet, then we are not far from it. Our political leaders
in the ruling party often issue intimidating statements that
frighten people and make us fear for the immediate and future. This
must be stopped and reversed henceforth.” – Zambia Conference of
Catholic Bishops, April 23, 2017

+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!

NOTE: AfricaFocus is making a transition to a new more user-friendly
email distribution system and format. PLEASE OPT IN FOR THE NEW
FORMAT by filling in the registration form at
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All subscriptions will be updated to the new format as soon as
possible. But the new system only allows a limited number of bulk
entries at a time, and blocks adding many “suspicious emails” that
are actually valid subscribers. So please make sure you are among
those getting the new format as soon as possible by opting in now.
Once you subscribe to the new format, your email will be removed
from the old list receiving this plain text format.

This Bulletin in the new format can be viewed at
http://mailchi.mp/igc/zambia-from-democracy-to-dictatorship.

To see earlier Bulletins in the new format, visit
http://tinyurl.com/AfricaFocusArchive

+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!+!

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains three short commentaries on the
current political crisis in Zambia, by Simon Allison, Nic Cheeseman,
and Tendai Biti. Another AfricaFocus, also to be sent out today,
focuses on the wider African and global context of “media repression
2.0” in the internet era, including a report on attacks on press
freedom in Zambia.

The statement cited above from the Catholic Bishops of Zambia is
available at http://tinyurl.com/l9cepug

The Council of Churches in Zambia has also issued a strong statement
condemning the arrest of opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema (
http://tinyurl.com/my4a6kx).

For keeping up with recent news on Zambia, two key sources are
http://allafrica.com/zambia and The Mast (
https://www.facebook.com/themastzambia/ or
https://www.themastonline.com/, successor to The Post, which was
shut down by the government in 2016.

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Zambia, visit
http://www.africafocus.org/country/zambia.php

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor’s note+++++++++++++++++

Analysis: Dark, dangerous days for Zambia’s democracy

After the attack on the home of Zambia’s opposition leader, and then
his arrest on spurious charges, Zambia’s reputation as a beacon of
democracy in Africa is under serious threat.

by Simon Allison

Daily Maverick, 20 April 2017

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/ – direct URL:
http://tinyurl.com/lxls8nq

Hakainde Hichilema is famously suspicious. The Zambian opposition
leader travels with a phalanx of bodyguards, and often brings his
own food wherever he goes, just in case anyone wants to poison him.
He claims to have received repeated death threats. He has a safe
room installed in his house.

Until Tuesday last week, it was easy to dismiss Hichilema’s paranoia
as exactly that – paranoia. This is Zambia, after all, one of
Africa’s most established and most successful democracies. No one
bumps off opposition leaders in Zambia. It’s not Russia, or
Venezuela, or Tunisia.

And then, in the early hours of that Tuesday morning, everything
changed. For Hichilema, and for Zambia.

Dozens of armed police descended onto Hichilema’s property. They
broke down the door. They threw tear gas into the house. Dazed and
confused, and above all scared, the politician and his family
retreated into the safe room.

I spoke to him there, on the phone. He didn’t raise his voice above
a whisper, and it trembled as he talked. He said that his wife and
children were injured from the tear gas, which was periodically
pumped through the vents of the safe room in a bid to force them
out, and that his servants had been tortured. He said he could hear
their screams. “This guy is trying to kill me,” he said. “This guy
is a dictator, a full-blown dictator.”

He was talking, of course, about President Edgar Lungu.

The siege lasted until mid-morning. By then, Hichilema’s legal team
had arrived, as had journalists. His lawyers eventually coaxed
Hichilema out of the safe room. He was immediately arrested, and
charged shortly afterwards with treason.

No one is dismissing Hichilema’s paranoia now – and no one is quite
sure what would have happened in the absence of that safe room into
which he could retreat.

What we do know is that Hichilema’s arch-rival, Lungu, has now
abandoned all democratic niceties in a bid to consolidate his grip
on power.

It was the nature of Hichilema’s arrest that was most concerning:
the midnight raid, the tear gas, the casual brutality meted out to
the servants. It was all entirely unnecessary. Hichilema is a public
figure, and could have been quietly arrested at any time. But the
raid was designed to intimidate, to send an unmistakeable message to
the president’s opponents that Lungu’s authority shall no longer be
challenged.

It wasn’t just Hichilema, either. Chilufya Tayali, head of the
Economic and Equity Party and a vocal critic of President Lungu, was
arrested just two days later. His crime? A Facebook post in which he
criticised the “inefficiency” of Zambia’s police chief. He has
subsequently been released on bail.

If that sounds ridiculous – well, it is. But not as ridiculous as
the charges levelled against Hichilema, which are so far entirely
unsubstantiated by evidence or detail. The only concrete allegation
is that Hichilema endangered the president’s life when his vehicles
did not give way to the president’s motorcade at a cultural
festival.

In Lungu’s Zambia, a traffic incident has somehow become treason.

It’s not Lungu’s Zambia quite yet, however, as embarrassed
government prosecutors learned in court. In their submissions
against Hichilema, prosecutors made a Freudian slip, referring to
the opposition leader’s alleged offences against the “Government of
President Edgar Lungu”. They were forced to amend the charge sheet
when the defence observed that such an institution does not exist:
there is still only a Government of the Republic of Zambia, as much
as President Lungu might like it to be otherwise.

But make no mistake: these are dark, dangerous times for Zambia. And
if Lungu’s end goal really is to dismantle the country’s hard-won
democracy, then it’s hard to see who or what will stop him.

Domestically, the arrests of Hichilema and Tayali, along with a
sustained assault on independent media, will have a chilling effect
on civil society. It will take extraordinary courage and commitment
to take on President Lungu’s administration now.

Internationally too, Lungu faces remarkably little pressure. He has
already brushed off statements of concern from the United States and
the European Union, warning diplomats that they are “wasting their
time”; just as he brushed off concerns that his 2016 election win
was marred by serious electoral fraud.

South Africa, the regional superpower which does exert real
influence in Lusaka, has been deafeningly silent; as analyst Greg
Mills observed on these pages, it can’t be a coincidence that Lungu
may well have been encouraged down this path by the example of the
“patronage regime” emerging in South Africa. The less leadership
South Africa displays at home, the less it can project abroad.

Zambia’s in trouble. For so long a beacon of democracy in Africa,
its enviable reputation has already been tarnished by President
Lungu’s actions. The risk now is that Lungu undoes that democratic
progress entirely.

If this all sounds a little paranoid, just remember that Hakainde
Hichilema was paranoid too. And on this, he is being proved right.

************************************************************

Zambia: President Lungu sacrifices credibility to repress opposition

by Nic Cheeseman

Democracy in Action,  21 April 2017

http://democracyinafrica.org/ – direct URL:
http://tinyurl.com/kqo4mr4

NicDiA’s Nic Cheeseman looks at the political crisis in Zambia,
where the opposition leader has been charged with treason, and
analyses the prospects for democratic backsliding. Nic Cheeseman
(@fromagehomme) is the Professor of Democracy at the University of
Birmingham

Zambian President Edgar Lungu finds himself caught between a rock
and a hard place in both economic and political terms. As a result,
he has begun to lash out, manipulating the law to intimidate the
opposition, and in the process sacrificing what credibility he had
left after deeply problematic general elections in 2016.

Let us start with the economy, where the president is stuck in
something of a lose-lose position. On the one hand, his populace is
growing increasingly frustrated at the absence of economic job and
opportunities, while a number of experts have pointed out that the
country is on the verge of a fresh debt crisis. Economic growth was
just 2.9% in 2016, while the public debt is expected to hit 54% of
GDP this year, and the government cannot afford to pay many of its
domestic suppliers.

On the other, a proposed $1.2 billion rescue deal with the
International Monetary Fund (IMF) has the potential to increase
opposition to the government for two reasons. First, it would mean
significantly reducing government spending, including on some of
Lungu’s more popular policies. Second, many Zambians are
understandably suspicious of IMF and the World Bank, having suffered
under previous adjustment programmes that delivered neither jobs nor
sustainable growth.

The president faces similar challenges on the political front.
Having won a presidential election in 2016 that the opposition
believes was rigged, and which involved a number of major procedural
flaws, Lungu desperately needs to relegitimate himself. However,
this need clashes with another, more important, imperative – namely,
the president’s desire to secure a third term in office when his
current tenure ends in 2020.

The problem for Lungu is that while it looks like he will be able to
use his influence over the Constitutional Court to ensure that it
interprets the country’s new constitutional arrangements to imply
that he should be allowed to stand for a third term – on the basis
that his first period in office was filling in for the late Michael
Sata after his untimely death in office, and so should not count –
such a strategy is likely to generate considerable criticism from
the opposition, civil society and international community.

Lacking viable opportunities to boost his support base and
relegitimate his government, President Lungu has responded by
pursuing another strategy altogether: the intimidation of the
opposition and the repression of dissent. While in some ways
represents a continuation of some of the tactics used ahead of the
2016 election, when the supporters and leaders of rival parties were
harassed and in some cases detained, the recent actions of the
Patriotic Front (PF) government represent a worrying gear-shift.

Most obviously, opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema, who came so
close to leading his United Party of National Development (UPND) to
victory in the latest polls, has been arrested and his home raided.
His crimes? There appear to be two sets of charges. One set is
relatively mundane, and relates to an incident in which Hichilema is
accused of refusing to give way to the president’s convoy. For this,
the opposition leader has been charged with breaking the highway
code and using insulting language.

The second charge – that of treason – is much more serious, but also
much less clear. Court documents state that Hichilema “on unknown
dates but between 10 October 2016 and 8 April 2017 and whilst acting
together with other persons unknown did endeavour to overthrow by
unlawful means the government of Edgar Lungu.” Although this charge
has also been linked to the recent traffic incident, it seems more
likely to be motivated by the president’s ongoing frustration that
the UPND continues to contest his election and refuses to recognise
him as a legitimately elected leader.

If this is the true motivation for the charges, it will only be the
latest of a number of moves to cow the opposition. For example, in
response to the refusal of UNPD legislators to listen to Lungu’s
address to the National Assembly, Richard Mumba – a PF proxy close
to State House – petitioned the Constitutional Court to declare
vacant the seats of all MPs who were absent.

The opposition are not alone. Key elements of civil society have
also come under fire. As a result of the waning influence of trade
unions, professional associations now find themselves as one of the
last lines of defence for the country’s fragile democracy, most
notably the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ). It should therefore
come as no surprise that a government MP, Kelvin Sampa, recent
introduced legislation into the National Assembly that would
effectively dissolve the LAZ and replace it with a number of smaller
bodies, each of which would be far less influential.

The bills introduced by Mumba and Sampa may not succeed, but in some
ways they don’t need to. Their cumulative effect has been to signal
that those who seek to resist the governments are likely to find
themselves the subject of the sharp end of the security forces and
the PF’s manipulation of the rule of law. The nature of Hichilema’s
arrest is a case in point. Despite numerous opportunities to detain
him in broad daylight, armed police and paramilitaries planned a
night attack in which they switched off the power to the house,
blocked access to the main roads, and broke down the entrance gate.
Inside the property, the security forces are accused of firing tear
gas, torture, urinating on the opposition leader’s bed and looting
the property.

It is therefore clear that the main aim of the operation was not an
efficient and speedy arrest, but rather the humiliation and
intimidation of an opponent.

Such abuses may help Lungu to secure the short-term goal of
prolonging his stay in power, but they will threaten to undermine
Zambia’s future. It will – or at least it should – be politically
embarrassing for the IMF to conclude a deal with Zambia while the
opposition leader is on trial on jumped up charges and civil society
is decrying the slide towards authoritarian rule. Rumours now
circulating in Lusaka suggest that President Lungu may be preparing
to enhance his authority by declaring a State of Emergency in the
near future, which would further complicate the country’s
international standing.

Lungu’s blatant disregard for the rules of the democratic game also
has important implications for the county’s political future. Many
Zambian commentators reported that the 2016 election was the most
violent in the country’s history, and forecast rising political
instability if this trend was not reserved. Rather than heed this
warning, President Lungu appears determined to put this prophecy to
the test.

********************************************************

Zambia and Zimbabwe: Why fair elections are essential for Africa’s
development

by Tendai Biti

Daily Maverick, 20 Apr 2017

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/ – direct URL:
http://tinyurl.com/klunpsc

[Tendai Biti was finance minister of Zimbabwe under the unity
government from 2009-2013.]

Zimbabwe is used as a case study of a broken society; a country in
which those in power concern themselves only with maintaining power
and amassing wealth. Zimbabwe is also often cited as an exceptional
case. However, while it’s situation undoubtedly has its own
peculiarities, Zimbabwe has not followed a path that is impassable
for others. It is dangerous to think otherwise.

Despite the popularity of the “Africa rising” narrative that has
sounded over the past decade regarding the pace of Africa’s economic
growth and the prospects for development, the continent continues to
face significant challenges in unlocking the benefits for the
majority of its citizens.

While there is no singular reason for this, the one with the
greatest explanatory power is the mindset of self-enrichment at the
cost of social development among the elite. There is little doubt in
my mind that the solution to turning this around also lies in the
hands of leadership and the choices they make. And getting the right
leadership in place, to make the right choices, is a question of
democracy.

As a former minister of finance in Zimbabwe, the proposals that came
on to my desk for government financing of projects that would make a
significant impact on our country were countless. Yet there was –
and continues to be – absolutely no money made available by the
government for any of these projects. It was often a difficult pill
to swallow when all around the country malnourished families were
starving while the lavish lives of those in the president’s inner-
circle were there for all to see.

Zimbabwe is used as a case study of a broken society; a country in
which those in power concern themselves only with maintaining power
and amassing wealth. Zimbabwe is also often cited as an exceptional
case. However, while it’s situation undoubtedly has its own
peculiarities, Zimbabwe has not followed a path that is impassable
for others. It is dangerous to think otherwise.

People often ask me how it is possible that we have been able to get
ourselves into this position as a country where everything is so
fundamentally broken. You cannot break things overnight, I answer,
but you can slowly chip away at the fundamentals and if no one does
anything to stop you then quite quickly all expectations of a
democratic society are abolished.

The increase in the number of elections taking place in Africa since
1990 has frequently been read as a positive indicator for the
continent’s future development prospects. Elections are only a
necessary but not a sufficient component of democracy. Yet this is
undermined if the international community adopts the convenient
fallacy that at least by going through the motion of holding
elections a country will get it right eventually, and so the extent
to which they can become a smokescreen has largely been overlooked.

The frequency of elections is much easier to observe and tick off a
checklist than adherence to the rule of law. However, it is the rule
of law that determines a country’s ability to function properly.
When the law is undermined and eroded, countries can follow a
downward spiral that leads to total collapse and from which it is
almost impossible to recover without outside support.

The rule of law in Zimbabwe has long been considered broken. The
same can now be said of our neighbour north of the Zambezi, Zambia.

Zambia’s leadership seems intent on destroying the 50 years of work
post-independence to build democracy by replicating actions we have
routinely seen in Zimbabwe, notably the systematic harassment and
intimidation of press, civil society and the opposition. While in
the past Zambians have looked to the rule of law to protect their
rights when under threat, today they find there is little prospect
for protection or redress.

Zambia’s major independent newspaper has been closed, with its
editor on the run; reports of intimidation and bribery of legal and
electoral officials have become widespread; and, now, as of a week
ago, popular opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema has been
incarcerated and charged with treason.

Shocking as this bold attempt to charge the opposition leader with
an offence that in theory could carry the death penalty appears, as
well as the violent and shocking manner in which the arrest was
conducted, if you look at the pattern of activity by the authorities
in recent months and years it is less surprising.

Over time Zambia’s leadership has become more and more confident
that they can sit above the law. While cases in which people have
spoken ill of the president or alleged corruption in public
institutions result in arrests and court charges, justice is slow
and often elusive for those outside the ruling elite.

The manner in which last year’s contested election was handled by
the Zambian authorities is a landmark case in this history. It’s a
story of the cost of electoral authoritarianism. Today, with
Hichilema behind bars, it is also testament of how the region and
the international community missed a critical opportunity to stem a
tide of poor governance by speaking out against an electoral sham.

When Hichilema’s party, the United Party for National Development,
challenged the 2016 election result on several grounds he was
advised to call on his supporters to remain peaceful and petition
the outcome in the courts, as is his constitutional right. The
petition was never heard, however, on the basis of a technicality
that his party continues to challenge through various appeals and
court submissions to this date.

This stands in stark contrast to how events played out in Ghana
following the 2012 elections. Then the opposition challenge of the
outcome led to a lengthy court case. While the outcome was
ultimately upheld by the court, the case revealed several failings
in the process for addressing ahead of future elections, and it
enabled the opposition a chance to present their evidence. The
process upheld the rule of law, and sent a clear signal to elites
and citizens alike that they can expect to be held accountable to
the law. This helped to pave the way for the peaceful transfer of
power to the opposition subsequently in January 2017.

The consequences of the soft approach of observers and the
international community following last year’s contested elections in
Zambia appears to be coming back to haunt them, however. Their
cautious approach and hesitancy to challenge leadership has been
taken as a near enough blank check for the elite to step by step
deconstruct the rule of law.

While national sovereignty must be respected we must not forget that
if the government in question is itself undermining the rule of law
and the rights and safety of its own citizens then it has already
undermined the grounds for sovereignty in a democratic nation.
Moreover, the more states that are allowed to continue down this
path unchallenged, the fewer voices there are left to speak out
against such infractions and the more leaders elsewhere that will be
motivated to preserve their stay in power through illicit means. DM

*****************************************************

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providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a
particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus
Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

AfricaFocus Bulletin can be reached at africafocus@igc.org. For more
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original source mentioned. For a full archive and other resources,
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Princeton University Plastered with Racist, Anti-Semitic Flyers
| April 25, 2017 | 8:28 pm | political struggle | No comments
This Dec. 3, 2015 file photo shows the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University in Princeton, N.J.

Princeton University Plastered with Racist, Anti-Semitic Flyers

© AP Photo/ Mel Evans
Society

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Posters bearing racist and anti-Semitic statements as well as a picture of Hitler in a party hat were found plastered around the campus of Princeton University.

According to student newspaper The Daily Princetonian, fliers were discovered in several spots on campus, including the door to the campus’ Center for Jewish Life. The student paper also claimed that a figure in dark clothing and a ski mask was spotted putting the fliers up.

​”Princeton is committed to protecting and promoting free expression, but it regards actions that are threatening or harassing based on identity as serious offenses,” the university said in an email to the student body.

“The flyers were contrary to the values of the University, which seeks to create and maintain an environment free from discrimination and harassment. Princeton attaches great importance to mutual respect, and we deplore expressions of hatred directed against any individual or group.”

Princeton is looking into the postings as a “bias incident” and is working with local enforcement to identify who put the fliers up.

The fliers bear the name of Vanguard America, whose official twitter describes them as a “White Nationalist American youth working to secure the existence of their people.”

“We hear it every day: ‘Whiteness’ is evil, and must be destroyed,” reads the organization’s website. “Our religion, our traditions, and our identity are dragged through the mud by the globalist establishment while millions of nonwhites flood our nation every year. If current trends continue, White Americans will be a minority by 2044. It’s time to take a stand.”

Other posters bearing white nationalists logans were found at University of Texas, Arlington in April, Rutgers University in February and the University of Maryland in March.

As Protests Rage in Venezuela, US Media Silent on Pro-Government Movements

As Protests Rage in Venezuela, US Media Silent on Pro-Government Movements

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As clashes between the Maduro government in Venezuela and the opposition are getting more and more fierce, the US media is openly calling for an economic war against the Bolivarian Revolution government, blaming it for casualties on both sides of the conflict.

Speaking to Radio Sputnik’s Brian Becker, author, journalist and lecturer Arnold August noted that the US media has a very clear stance: that Maduro and his Bolivarian Revolution government are responsible for everything bad that is happening in the country. Those who do not blame Maduro directly nonetheless report on the issue in such a way as to create the impression that Maduro is responsible, August said.

​For example, an April 24 opinion piece by the Washington Times is entitled “Venezuela’s coming civil war: Maduro is arming his thugs to crush the democratic hopes of his desperate people.”

Reuters took a more subtle approach, reporting casualties among civilians without naming who fired the shots, on April 25.

“A 42-year-old man who worked for local government in the Andean state of Merida died from a gunshot in the neck at a rally in favor of president Nicolas Maduro’s government, the state ombudsman and prosecutor’s office said,” the report reads.

“Another 54-year-old man was shot dead in the chest during a protest in the western agricultural state of Barinas, the state prosecutor’s office added without specifying the circumstances,” it continues.

Major media, such as the Miami Herald and CNN, reported in the last few days that the US will have to consider imposing “serious sanctions” on Venezuela, should Maduro fail to host “free and fair” elections, allowing opposition leaders to campaign, August recalled. The US media also purposefully omits reports of demonstrations by the Chavistas — the supporters of the acting government.

The Green Left news website, on the other hand, reported “tens of thousands” of pro-government activists. Deutsche Welle carefully refrained from separating the sides, giving an overall estimate of 6 million people protesting on April 19.  August claimed there were 3 million pro-government protesters across the whole country. All agree that these demonstrations have been the largest in the history of the nation.

August mentioned an opinion piece written for CNN by Jose Miguel Vivanco and Tamara Taraciuk Broner, “high-ranking members” of Human Rights Watch, August explained. Human Rights Watch is heavily financed by George Soros, who is known to be a big proponent of regime change around the world.

Vivanco and Taraciuk’s piece promotes the narrative that all of the deaths and violence in the country are “rightfully” blamed on Maduro, and that international pressure is needed to restore “human rights and democracy in Venezuela.”

“This is one big lie, if I may be quite frank,” August commented.

The US may be up to more than just harsh words in the media, August noted. On April 24, the Maduro government seized a General Motors factory in Venezuela, forcing the company to flee the country, leaving 2,700 people without jobs.

Officially, GM did not pay its taxes and refused to conform to “basic economic and financial rules,” August explains.

But he speculates that GM could have been involved in a darker scheme, similar to what happened in Chile in the 1973 coup d’état against Salvador Allende government.

“Main enterprises in Venezuela — General Motors, but there are others as well — were specifically organizing to hoard goods, to keep it away from the people, in order to create problems, to create a situation where people are starving, etc.,” August told Becker, adding that US companies also cut flights to Venezuela in an attempt to harm its income from tourism.

“It is undeniable that there are internal problems and weaknesses in the economy under the Bolivarian Revolution, but the main feature of the problem at this time is what has been induced and still being induced by the US and its allies,” he said.

After Dropping MOAB on Afghanistan, Trump May Be Considering Escalation
US President Donald Trump walks from Marine One upon his return to the White House in Washington, US, April 9, 2017.

After Dropping MOAB on Afghanistan, Trump May Be Considering Escalation

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Military & Intelligence

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On Monday, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan, not long after President Donald Trump dropped the “Mother of all bombs” on Taliban targets in the country.

Radio Sputnik’s Loud & Clear spoke with Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Non-Violence, about Washington’s presence in Afghanistan and whether the Trump administration may be considering a fresh surge of troops in the country.

​Having just returned from Afghanistan, a country she’s visited 22 times since 2010, Kelly said it’s difficult to pin down what the White House may be planning, because “The Trump administration is very erratic and unpredictable, but it does seem that the Trump administration is not terribly interested in matters of foreign policy.”

She added, “Even a militarist who is convinced that war is the only answer to troubles might be given pause by the fact that the US in Afghanistan has not been able to oust or overcome or even significantly limit the Taliban. The Taliban has gained increasing power over the years while the United States has moved towards its 16th year being in war in Afghanistan.”

During his visit, Mattis said the US is “under no illusions about the challenges associated with this mission,” and that “2017 is going to be another tough year for the valiant Afghan security forces and the international troops who have stood and continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with Afghanistan against terrorism.”

Kelly remarked, “I don’t know if it’s true to say the US military stands shoulder to shoulder with the Afghan military, which comparatively are extremely underprotected.”

She explained that one of the reasons why the extremists have been so successful is because they’re motivated by principle and religious zeal, while Afghan soldiers often join their country’s military as a means of survival.

Kelly noted that there have also been issues of corruption in the Afghan military, with one New York Times article positing that 1.45 million firearms have gone missing in the 15 years the US has been in Afghanistan, suggesting that the US is unwittingly arming militants. There have also been incidents of wages to being paid to soldiers that don’t exist, with corrupt officials pocketing the money.

Kelly said conditions are so dire that some Afghans sign up for the military just to receive a weapon so they could sell it.

“It isn’t that Afghan people are untrustworthy, it’s that they’re desperate … There’s so much hunger, near starvation, there’s so many people without any employment whatsoever because the country in these 16 years … has steadily declined in terms of the most basic evaluations of quality of life.”

Loud & Clear Host Brian Becker asked how the Afghan people feel after nearly 16 years of aggression from the US.

Kelly said that, while in Afghanistan, her hosts would ask her questions, like “‘Do parents in your country really think that by sending their sons over to risk their lives in Afghanistan they’re going to affect terrorism?’ because they know that the source of terror that Americans have been taught to fear certainly isn’t coming from Afghanistan. I think they know it’s foolhardy and futile for the US to prolong this war.”