Tuesday December 12, 2017
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Burundi Crisis: Impoverished African nation weeps as no one shows interest in this nowhere land

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    Image Credits: Reuters

By Rukma Singh

Last month, Burundi had erupted in a series of street protests against the president’s decision to run for a third term in office. The protests have been met with great force by police. Several civilians and police officers have been killed. The emerging and developing political crisis in Burundi, is complex to understand. What is essential to keep in mind, however, is how the international community’s role will eventually attain supremacy in giving a direction to the situation.

The crisis

In March of last year, President Pierre Nkurunziza, narrowly lost a vote in parliament, that would have removed term limits and allowed him to run for a third term. The period immediately after the vote, offered an opportunity for the international community, to rally around the Burundian elite to ensure that the norm of term limits stuck, sufficiently isolating Nkurunziza and his allies. In a country of Burundi’s size, how the international community engages with local issues matters a great deal for the domestic conduct of politics.

History

Ever since Burundi achieved independence from Belgium in 1962, the country has experienced various episodes of mass and revenge killings between Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups. The bloodshed reached its peak during a 10-year civil war, during which over 300,000 people were killed. In 2002, a successful but tenuous peace was established through the groundbreaking Arusha Accords, and for the first time, ethnic differences appeared to be put to one side.

Increasing turmoil

The government had taken an increasingly authoritarian approach, cracking down on independent media and civil society – including the arrests of Pierre-Claver Mbonimba, a human rights activist, and Bob Rugurika, a popular radio journalist. There have been credible reports that the government, and, to a lesser extent, the opposition were actively arming the youth wings of their parties. At the end of 2014, a massacre took place in Cibitoke, in which at least 47 people were killed, an event that underscored the increasing potential for larger scale atrocities within Burundi.

One thing can be said for the crisis unfolding in Burundi over the past month and a half: it has put this small impoverished East African nation, which most Israelis cannot locate on a map, into the international news cycle.

The ray of hope

On the one hand, socio-economic problems, rising social discontent and extrajudicial killings put severe strains on the government. On the other hand, parallel dialogues have recently started between the European Union and the Burundian government, and between Burundian political actors.

Continuing these parallel dialogues and consolidating peace in Burundi will require mutual concessions by the ruling party and the opposition. It will also require that the donors maintain dialogue with the authorities on the political and security problems, and resort to financial incentives, particularly for the preparation of the elections and the security sector reform. International efforts should focus on protecting journalists and civil society activists, empowering the independent human rights commission, and promoting a security sector reform centered on human rights.

Recent developments

The head of the African Union Commission, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, on Saturday, urged rival-sides in Burundi to engage in dialogue to solve the political crisis gripping the central African nation.

“We would like to encourage all the parties to engage in constructive dialogue placing the interest of the country and the people, welfare and lives of their people and stability and peace above all else,” said AU chairwoman, Dlamini-Zuma at a peace and security meeting in Johannesburg, on the eve of an African Union summit.

Since last month Nkurunziza has faced international pressure to reconsider his attempt to stay in power, which observers fear could plunge the country back into war.

The country will hold parliamentary elections on June 29 and a presidential poll on July 15.

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US Restricts Visas for Cambodians ‘Undermining Democracy’

As a response to anti-democratic actions, Trump administration restrict VISA for Cambodians

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Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen attends a ceremony at the Angkor Wat temple to pray for peace and stability in Cambodia, Dec. 3, 2017.

The Trump administration announced Wednesday it will restrict visas for Cambodians “undermining democracy” in the Southeast Asian nation following the dissolution of the main opposition party and a crackdown on independent media.

The State Department said it was a direct response to “anti-democratic actions” by the Cambodian government but did not disclose which individuals would be affected. It said visa records are confidential under U.S. law.

Spokeswoman Heather Nauert called on the Cambodian government to reinstate the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, which was dissolved by Supreme Court order last month, and free its leader Kem Sokha, imprisoned since September. She also urged Cambodia to allow civil society and media to operate freely.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has held power for more than three decades, has sought to neutralize political opponents and silence critics ahead of national elections next year. Kem Sokha has been charged with trying to topple the government with U.S. support, which Washington has said is a baseless accusation.

Supporters of Kem Sokha, leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, stand outside the Appeal Court during a bail hearing for the jailed opposition leader in Phnom Penh, Cambodia Sept. 26, 2017.

Nauert said Cambodia’s actions run counter to the Paris Peace Agreements of 1991. The United States and 18 other governments signed the accords, which ushered in democracy after the genocidal rule of the Khmer Rouge regime in the late 1970s, then occupation by Vietnam and civil war.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will restrict entry into the United States of “those individuals involved in undermining democracy in Cambodia,” Nauert said in a statement, adding that in certain circumstances, family members of those individuals will also be subject to visa restrictions. The department cited a provision of U.S. immigration law under which individuals can be denied entry if the secretary determines it would have “adverse foreign policy consequences.”

The White House has already terminated U.S. support of Cambodia’s national election committee, saying last month that the July 2018 vote “will not be legitimate, free or fair.”

“We will continue to monitor the situation and take additional steps as necessary, while maintaining our close and enduring ties with the people of Cambodia,” Nauert said.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson delivers remarks during a press availability at NATO in Brussels, Belgium, Dec. 6, 2017.

​Monovithya Kem, an opposition spokeswoman currently in the U.S., welcomed the visa restrictions and called for targeted financial sanctions on senior officials in Hun Sen’s government. Kem, who is the daughter of Kem Sokha, urged the U.S., Japan, Australia and the European Union to coordinate responses to the “crisis” in Cambodia and help win her father’s freedom.

Like many prominent opposition figures, Kem has fled Cambodia as she fears arrest.

Hun Sen has been in office since 1985 and has held a tight grip on power since ousting a co-prime minister in a bloody 1997 coup.

In recent months, the government has intensified restrictions on civil society groups and independent media outlets. In September, it shut down the English-language Cambodia Daily. Authorities have shuttered radio stations that aired programming from U.S.-funded Radio Free Asia and Voice of America, whose reports they allege are biased.

The government also expelled the U.S. National Democratic Institute, which helped train political parties and election monitors, accusing it of colluding with its opponents.

Hun Sen has moved Cambodia closer to China in recent years and become increasingly critical of Washington. However, he’s been complimentary of President Donald Trump.

Speaking at Asian leaders’ summit attended by Trump last month, Hun Sen praised the U.S. leader for non-interference in affairs of other nations, but complained the U.S. Embassy in Cambodia was not adhering to the policy. (VOA)

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Confirmed: Kamal Haasan will Launch Mobile app on his 63rd Birthday, November 7

Actor Kamal Haasan confirms the launch of a mobile software app on November 7. Look what more he has to say.

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Actor Kamal Haasan
Actor Kamal Haasan. wikimedia commons

CHENNAI: Confirming his political plunge, actor Kamal Haasan on Sunday said the first step will be the launch of a mobile software app on November 7 – his 63rd birthday – that will enable him to be in touch with the fans and as well as enable book-keeping.

At a function to mark the 39th anniversary of his fan/welfare club, he said his political plunge by starting a political party is confirmed.

Kamal Haasan said the political party launch will happen in a calm manner and the launch of the mobile app is the first step on November 7.

He said his fans would contribute funds for the political party and the mobile app will facilitate keeping proper accounts of funds collected.

According to him, there is no shame in stretching out one’s hands for the welfare of the people and if only the rich pay their taxes properly, the country would be on the right path.

Kamal said November 7 is a day not to cut a cake and celebrate but a day to cut canals, obliquely referring to the flooding of several localities in the city due to recent rains.

The actor added natural disasters do not differentiate between rich and poor and all should be ready to take preventive measures then acting after the loss of dear ones.

According to him, suppression has become part of politics and it is not important how many people are threatening you, but what is important is what you are going to do.

Kamal Haasan said he is ready to take a beating but he is not a “mridangam” (a percussion instrument) to get hit again and again.(IANS)

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Rahul Gandhi Points at PM Modi to Vacate the Seat over Gas price Hike

Rahul Gandhi's twitter attack on PM Modi: Vacant your seat over the gas price hike.

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Rahul Gandhi's verbal attack on PM Modi
Rahul Gandhi's verbal attack on PM Modi wikimedia commons

NEW DELHI: Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi on Sunday attacked the Narendra Modi-led central government after the prices of cooking gas was again hiked, asking him to “vacate the ‘Sinhasan’ (post of the Prime Minister)”.

“Mehangi gas, mehanga rashan. Band karo khokala bhashan. Dam bandho kam do. Warna khali karo sinhasan (Expensive gas, expensive ration. Stop making hollow promises. Fix the rates and give employment or else vacate the post),” Rahul Gandhi tweeted attaching a news report of the hike.

Gandhi was referring to the price hike announced by the state-run oil firms on Wednesday.

The prices of the LPG cylinder’s went up by Rs 4.50, while the non-subsidised rates were hiked by a steeper Rs 93 per cylinder.(IANS)