The World Today for August 24, 2018

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A War In Any Language…

Doctors, nurses and other staff are deserting their posts in Cameroon’s northern English-speaking regions as they come under attack from both sides in a bloody conflict between government troops and armed separatists.

The military is attacking the health-care providers for treating rebels seeking to create an independent country called Ambazonia. The rebels are attacking the caregivers for allegedly providing information to the military.

“We have mobilized to let the world know that doctors, nurses, laboratory technicians and pharmacists are tortured and killed just for saving lives,” nurse Rose Arrey told Voice of America. “God spared mine when I was pulled out of hospital and beaten just because I was accused of hiding terrorists. Many are dead, many are wounded.”

The episode is yet another sad turn among the conflicts that have claimed hundreds of lives in the Central African country in the past few years.

This time, the grievance is over how the English-speaking population has been left out of society.

The Ambazonia question dates to modern Cameroon’s founding, explained the Council on Foreign Relations in a blog post.

The British and French divided up the former German colony of Kamerun after World War I. The French-speaking zone became independent in 1960, and a portion of the English-speaking zone joined it a year later. (The other part joined Nigeria.)

In the 1960s, Cameroon’s Francophone majority and Anglophone minority were supposed to be respected equally in the newly independent country, but tensions remained. Then President Paul Biya, who took control in 1982 and remains head of state to this day, enacted a series of changes that empowered the central government and weakened self-rule among the Anglophone community.

The issue has been simmering ever since, coming to a boil in 2016 when English-speaking lawyers, then teachers and other citizens, staged strikes and demonstrations in protest of government actions that favored the French language. A year ago, the rebel leaders’ governing council declared war on Biya’s regime and fighting began. The pot boiled over, in other words.

“‘This is a genocide’: villages burn as war rages in blood-soaked Cameroon,” read a May headline in the Guardian.

And English-speaking Cameroonians have been looking in earnest for a way out, reported Al-Fanar media.

One could argue that the rebels have wrongly turned to violence to achieve their goals.

Even so, controversial videos that appear to show government troops executing civilians suggest Biya might be as heavy-handed as his critics claim.

In one video, according to the Chinese news service Xinhua, troops with automatic weapons shoot a group of unarmed people as they sit against a wall.

Another video, according to the New York Times, purportedly shows Cameroonian troops shooting and killing four women suspected of ties to the terrorist group Boko Haram.

The government has denied that the videos show its troops and has launched investigations.

Cameroon could be going the way of Congo, the Central African Republic and other African countries mired in deadly, tragic and perennial chaos.

But in this case, it’s not tribalism or religion, and it could be halted. But most don’t believe the will is there.



Out with the Old

Scott Morrison is set to become the new prime minister of Australia after Malcolm Turnbull was forced out by what he described as an “insurgency” of conservative members of parliament.

Morrison, who became Australia’s treasurer when Turnbull replaced Tony Abbot as prime minister in 2015, defeated former Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton in an internal ballot to choose the Liberal Party’s new leader by 45-40, the BBC reported.

No Australian leader has managed to complete a full three-year term in office over the past decade, the BBC noted earlier.

On Tuesday, Turnbull narrowly defeated a leadership challenge from Dutton. But the scent of blood in the water prompted key backers to desert him, prompting Morrison and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to enter the race.

The incoming leader is noted for hardline conservative positions. As immigration minister under Abbott, he pushed the controversial “stop the boats” policy and drew criticism from more liberal Australians for supporting offshore detention centers. He also opposed the same-sex marriage bill that passed at the end of 2017.


Salvini Salvo

More popular than ever in the wake of the bridge collapse in Genoa, Matteo Salvini, Italy’s far-right minister of the interior, threatened to resign to prevent the president from allowing 177 migrants rescued from the Mediterranean to disembark on Italian soil – prompting an emergency meeting of the European Commission to try to speed reform of the bloc’s migration policy.

A European Commission spokesman said it had been “in intense contact” about the case since Sunday, Politico reported.

Salvini barred the Ubaldo Diciotti, which docked in the port of Catania Monday night, from offloading the migrants without a guarantee from the European Union that they will be resettled in other countries. Subsequently, he issued a defiant challenge to the prosecutor’s office in Agrigento after it said it was opening an investigation into the allegedly illegal detention of the migrants, the UK’s Guardian newspaper reported.

The incident has opened a rift between Salvini and Italian President Sergio Mattarella, who would like the migrants to be allowed to disembark to receive medical care. So far, only 29 unaccompanied minors have been allowed into Italy from the vessel.


The Other Migrant Crisis

The United Nations urged other Latin American countries to ease restrictions on migrants fleeing the economic and political turmoil in Venezuela on Thursday after Ecuador and Peru announced tighter entry policies.

Some 1.6 million Venezuelans have fled the country since 2015, Al Jazeera reported. But this week Ecuador and Peru said those without valid passports will henceforth be denied entry. That’s an especially vexing problem because few Venezuelans have passports and amid the crisis they have become more difficult to obtain.

Drawing together various reports, the Washington Post called the refugee exodus “the biggest crisis in the hemisphere” on Thursday, noting that some 1.3 million of the migrants were “suffering from malnourishment” according to the UN.

Colombia, which has seen more than a million migrants cross into the country from Venezuela over the past 16 months and has offered 800,000 of them temporary residence, called for a special UN envoy and a “multilateral emergency fund” to support relief efforts.


The Ghost of a Library

Wherever they ruled, the Romans left traces behind.

Last year in Cologne, Germany, archaeologists came across one of those remnants, the Washington Post reported.

At first glance, they assumed the building was a community hall. But recently they determined that it was actually a public library nearly 2,000 years old.

Measuring about 65 feet long and 30 feet wide, the building sported 30-inch-deep wall recesses found in other Roman libraries in Egypt and Italy.

Historians believe it might be the first library found in the northwestern regions of the empire, which at its peak extended from the present-day English-Scottish border to Iraq.

Researchers speculate the Cologne library may have housed nearly 20,000 parchment scrolls.

But there’s debate over whether Roman libraries were really public.

According to a study by historian T. Keith Dix, libraries were mostly accessible to “authors close to imperial circles.” Moreover, he adds, official libraries acted as institutions “for censorship of literature.”

It’s unknown what sort of texts were located on the Cologne library’s shelves, since the parchments disintegrated over time.

Tourists, however, will now be able to admire their ancient walls and dream a little.

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