The World Today for May 11, 2016

May 11, 2016


Burundi and Rwanda: Trouble Again

The specter of conflict between the African nations of Burundi and Rwanda has reared its head again following a long period of political unrest, killings and conspiracy theories.

Burundi currently has all the markings of a failing state – last year, its GDP dropped 7.4 percent. Police have calculated that 451 people have been killed due to unrest stemming from President Pierre Nkurunziza's announcement in April 2015 that he would stand for election for a third term – despite the nation’s constitutional limits of a president’s tenure to two terms. Nkurunziza’s victory in July followed a failed May 2015 coup by officers in the country’s army (The country’s supreme court sentenced 21 of the army officers in the coup to life in prison Tuesday, Agence France Presse reported).

The conflict has been punctuated with a litany of political assassinations: Col. Emmanuel Buzubona and Brigadier General Athanase Kararuza were murdered in separate April attacks. In the latter, Kararuza’s family was killed alongside him as he and his wife dropped off their daughter at school.

The results have been deep and far-reaching: A quarter of a million people have fled the country, many into neighboring Rwanda. And last month, the International Criminal Court said it was beginning a preliminary investigation into alleged war crimes within the country.

The Burundian government has been unwilling to sit and negotiate, or even meet, with members of the country’s opposition. President Nkurunziza was recently scheduled to resume mediation talks overseen by the Ugandan president. But Nkurunziza refused to participate, the result being that the talks were postponed to later this month.

Now many are alleging that Rwanda is fomenting discord in Burundi.

The Congolese government recently claimed that the Rwandan government had been paying exiled former fighters from an early 2000s separatist force call the M23 Movement to join the Burundian opposition and topple Nkurunziza’s government.

The M23 fighters were formerly part of the Congolese army and composed of Tutsi fighters. The unit rebelled in 2012 but is understood to be supported still by Rwanda as a means of maintaining influence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The government of President Nkurunziza has reportedly made similar allegations numerous times. Earlier this year, a UN Security Council report found that refugees from the Mahama camp in Rwanda had been conscripted to join Burundi’s armed opposition.

Meanwhile, any unrest between Tutsis and Hutus in Rwanda or Burundi, whose ethnic makeup is similar to Rwanda’s, evokes the atrocities and bloodbaths that shook Rwanda in 1994.

Observers say it’s a lot of intrigue that could easily cause tensions to heat up and bubble over, potentially with enough violence to destroy this relatively small corner of the world yet again.


Hollande’s Hail Mary

It’s not yet clear if French President François Hollande’s invocation of a special constitutional power to ram a controversial labor law through parliament will go down as a necessary bold stroke or yet another nail in the political coffin of the embattled Socialist leader.

Hollande’s Socialist allies bitterly opposed the labor law, saying it would undermine workers' rights by letting employers circumvent unions, demand longer work days and lay off workers more easily, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The Senate will now review the law and then send it back to the Assembly. Hollande can again invoke the so-called Article 49 of the French constitution and force the Assembly to adopt it.

Hollande tried but failed to strip terrorists of French citizenship after Socialists voted against the plan floated by the president after the November Islamic State attacks in Paris.

His popularity rankings are tanking, too. An Opinionway poll found in May that only 18 percent of respondents were satisfied with Hollande’s presidency.

It’s not clear if Hollande is doing the right thing, observers say. But given those polls, it appears that whatever he is doing, it’s unpopular.

Brazil’s Crazy Day

Brazil had an insane day on Tuesday.

The speaker of the lower house of the Brazilian Congress, Waldir Maranhão – who rose to office after his predecessor was suspended in an unrelated corruption investigation – moved to “annul” an earlier vote to impeach President Dilma Rousseff.  

But Senate Leader Renan Calheiros rejected the annulment and went ahead with a senate vote on Rousseff's impeachment.

Then Maranhão's center-right Progressive Party staged a rebellion and threatened to kick him out. Maranhão then withdrew the annulment petition.

On Tuesday, Rousseff’s lawyers asked Brazil’s Supreme Court to annul the impeachment vote, too.

The moves reflected how Rousseff was growing more anxious as the Senate on Wednesday is expected to vote on whether or not to hold an impeachment trial. If that happens, Rousseff will be suspended as the trial continues.

No doubt more drama will occur as the spring and summer drag on.

Many hope the political scandal subsides before August, when the entire world will be watching Brazil when the country hosts the summer Olympics.

The Philippines' Trump-ism

The Filipino equivalent of Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani won the presidency following elections on Monday.

The loudmouth crime-busting mayor of Davao City, Rodrigo Duterte, was forecast as winning a majority of votes. And his vows to tame crime were key in his win, said reports.

But Duterte’s exploits in the criminal arena have also gotten him into trouble.

He publicly lamented that he never got a chance to rape a woman who was held hostage in a Davao jail in the late 1980s. “I was angry because she was raped, that’s one thing,” he told television journalists. “But she was so beautiful, the mayor should have been first. What a waste.”

In a sense, the election has brought some American and Filipino voters together, observers say.

In each country, some ordinary folks hope their populist politicians will change their tune and drop their over-the-top rhetoric when they are in office, pundits say.

With Duterte, Filipinos now have a chance to see whether or not that is possible.


Genes on the Silk Road

For thousands of years, traders herded thousands of camels over the deserts of North Africa and the Middle East.

When they reached their destinations, they would unload their animals and take a new, fresh herd back the other way laden with goods as the first camels rested.

“People would travel hundreds of miles with their camels carrying all their precious goods. And when they reached the Mediterranean, the animals would be exhausted,” Nottingham University geneticist Olivier Hanotte told the BBC. “They would leave those animals to recover and take new animals for their return journey.”

As a result of these back and forth journeys and the mixing of camels, the dromedaries are remarkably similar to each other genetically, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Camels from West Africa, Oman, Pakistan and Syria share the same ancestors, the researchers found.

Mankind’s ancient trade routes shaped the camels’ genetic diversity, in other words, even as they shaped the early history of mankind.

Wed, 05/11/2016 – 06:14

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