The World Today for November 20, 2017



The King Is Dead…

For 37 years, one man ruled supreme. And for the struggling youth of Zimbabwe like Ethel Murehwa, he’s the only leader she’s ever known.

The unthinkable has now happened, she told USA Today. He’s gone. And she feels hope.

Over the weekend, along with shock and awe in this southern African country, there was a feeling that now anything is possible.

The longest ruling dictator in the world, Robert Mugabe, 93, was kicked out of his ruling ZANU-PF party. So was his unpopular wife Grace, who is also known as “First Shopper” or “Gucci Grace” for her lavish shopping sprees abroad. She was set to take over from her husband when the country held elections next year.

Instead, Mugabe now has a stark choice: resign or be impeached.

The events that led to this day started weeks ago after Mugabe decided to fire his vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa. That move was not exceptional in itself: Zimbabwe’s president had canned subordinates before.

This time, however, it was one step too far, Forbes explained.

The tanks rolled into the capital of Harare. Demonstrators chanting “Mugabe must go” filled the streets, reported ABC. Tens of thousands demonstrated this weekend.

The central committee of the party said it would impeach Mugabe by Tuesday via the Parliament if he didn’t resign – and during a televised address Sunday, he did not. The central committee also appointed Mnangagwa as party leader.

So what’s next?

The military needs to be careful, the Washington Post warned. They must hew to the pretense that they haven’t staged a coup, or else Zimbabwe’s neighbors could feel obliged to intervene on Mugabe’s behalf.

Mnangagwa is no boy scout, either. Nicknamed “the Crocodile,” he was a close compatriot of Mugabe who had little compunctions about implementing his autocrat boss’s agenda.

“His ruthlessness is legion,” South African journalist Peter Fabricius told the New York Times.

He’s alleged to have massacred at least 20,000 civilians in the 1980s in Matabeleland, where opposition to Mugabe was rife, CNN reported.

The Zimbabwean economy is a mess, too. Unemployment stands at 95 percent, Bloomberg wrote. Inflation is skyrocketing. Prices have been falling for the commodities that provide crucial foreign reserves to the government’s coffers.

Still, many Zimbabweans are ecstatic. After a transition period, their country has a chance at normality.

“Mugabe was president since I was born,” Kudakwashe Gore, a mechanic in Harare, told USA Today. “He was spoiling his legacy by failing to pass on the baton.”

The country can build on that confidence and other assets, the Guardian argued. Zimbabwe has a well-educated populace, some of the best tourism in Africa as well as gold and other natural resources, for example.

It is now up to Mnangagwa to seize the opportunity he has been given.

“Everything had become gloomy —there were no jobs, and everyone was roaming the streets,” said Ethel Murehwa, 28, of the past few years. “I anticipate that Mugabe’s departure will lead to economic transformation and creation of jobs…and I hope to get a job soon.”



Off the Saddle

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s political horse-trading may not be enough to forge another governing coalition, raising additional hurdles for a Europe dealing with Brexit, Greece, Russian sanctions and French President Emmanuel Macron’s proposals for strengthening the euro.

Coalition talks broke down late Sunday, raising the prospect of fresh elections next spring, as a minority government would not provide the stability Merkel has promised, Bloomberg reported.

“The state of drift in Europe continues and now Germany, which has been the stabilizer of the last number of years, is part of that,” the agency quoted Daniel Hamilton, executive director of the Center for Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins University, as saying.

Talks broke down when the Free Democrats, her second-term partner between 2009 and 2013, pulled out. Merkel’s open door policy for refugees resulted in her bloc taking its lowest share of the vote since 1949, and migration was the key reason for the breakdown of negotiations, she said.


Outsider’s Perspective

China has proposed a three-phase plan for resolving the Rohingya crisis, starting with a ceasefire in Myanmar’s Rakhine State so that refugees can return from Bangladesh.

“With the hard work of all sides, at present the first phase’s aim has already basically been achieved, and the key is to prevent a flare-up,” Reuters cited China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi as saying in Myanmar, ahead of a meeting of European and Asian officials on Monday.

Step two should be a bilateral dialogue to find a workable short-term solution, and step three a long-term solution based on alleviating poverty – which Wang said was the root cause of the conflict.

More than 600,000 Muslim Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh following brutal counter-insurgency operations against Rohingya Islamist militants after attacks on an army base and dozens of police security posts in Rakhine on Aug. 25.

China has repeatedly expressed support for what it calls the Myanmar government’s efforts to protect stability.


One Down

Former President Sebastián Piñera won the first round of presidential elections in Chile, triggering a run-off election on Dec. 17.

The election – which was also for the lower house of Congress and for half the seats in the Senate – was the first to be held under new electoral rules that limit campaign spending and impose greater transparency, the New York Times reported.

Having won 36 percent of the votes cast, the conservative billionaire will face center-left journalist and former news anchor, Alejandro Guillier, 64, who received 22 percent. The leftist coalition Frente Amplio won 20 percent of the vote – double what pundits had forecast.

The vote breaks the dominance of the two major coalitions that have governed Chile since the end of military rule in 1990, the paper noted. Frente Amplio made significant gains in Congress, there was a marked generational shift and a greater number of women lawmakers won seats, according to preliminary results.



Even after the fall of the Taliban, cultural norms in Afghanistan still prohibit women from playing sports and they’re often pushed out of public spaces.

But a group of trailblazers is seeking to change that by allowing Afghan women and girls to hit the track.

The non-profit Free to Run offers a safe space for women in Kabul to practice sports and organizes mixed-gender marathons – ideas that were unthinkable only a few years ago.

It’s not about staying fit or winning medals, Free to Run founder Stephanie Case, a human rights lawyer in Kabul who’s a marathon runner herself, told NBC news. It’s about empowering women to “reclaim public space that they are constantly shoved out of.”

What started as a modest operation three years ago has expanded outside of Kabul and now trains some 100 women for marathons and teaches new skills, such as cycling or skating.

Disapproving passersby are known to stone the women – and even run them off the road.

But that’s not stopping this dedicated group of women.

“When I run, I feel strong,” one runner, Raihanna, said. “This is hard for me, that I should go outside and run … but I want to do it.”

Click here to see these trailblazers in action.

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