The World Today for October 23, 2018
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NEED TO KNOW
Never Again, Again
Marguerite Barankitse, an advocate for refugees in Burundi, recently appealed to Canadians to help stop a genocide that she fears is imminent in the central African country.
“You don’t hear about it on the news anymore but the killing never stopped in Burundi,” Barankitse told Radio Canada. “They kill every day.”
She was referring to suffering experienced by Burundians like Lievin Manisha, who recently wrote a book titled “From Genocide to Jesus.” Manisha was caught up in the civil war that raged after Tutsi soldiers assassinated President Melchior Ndadaye, sparking mass killings of Tutsis and army reprisals against Hutus that claimed some 300,000 lives, according to the BBC. That violence helped lay the groundwork for genocide next door in Rwanda in 1994.
“Lievin Manisha was six years old when he watched as his family and neighbors were beaten, raped and beheaded,” wrote the Philadelphia Tribune in a story about Manisha, who is now 31 and studying at Louisiana College. “He became an orphan and lived in a refugee camp until he was kidnapped, tortured and nearly killed at the age of 12.”
Violence flared again in Burundi a few years ago after President Pierre Nkurunziza, whose government is accused of human-rights violations against opponents, decided to run for a third term – altering the constitution so he could rule until 2034. Protests erupted and a coup attempt was launched but fizzled, prompting a crackdown.
Nkurunziza is not exactly a peacemaker. A United Nations report last month accused the president of instigating crimes against humanity, including summary executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, torture and sexual violence, reported Agence France-Presse.
He’s also been making moves that autocrats tend to make when they’re stifling dissent.
His regime suspended nongovernmental organizations for three months, saying they weren’t hiring proper ratios of Hutu and Tutsis, or were promoting same-sex marriages that were “against” Burundian culture, reported Reuters.
Nkurunziza recently also blamed former colonial power Belgium for the assassination of national hero Crown Prince Louis Rwagasore in 1961, Agence France-Presse reported. The accusation takes a common page from the playbook of politicians seeking to distract the public by inciting anger over old grievances.
What’s the president’s message to Barankitse, Manisha, the UN and the rest of his naysayers? Bloomberg provided an answer to that question: “The crisis is over: now dig some mines and grow some coffee.”
Nkurunziza, in other words, wants the world to overlook his civil-rights record and the suffering of more than 380,000 refugees so that Burundi can go about its business. The gambit might work. But it shouldn’t.
WANT TO KNOW
In the Vice
Mexico won’t likely stop a caravan of more 7,000 migrants from making its way to the border with the US, just as US President Donald Trump vowed Monday to send as many soldiers as necessary to prevent it from crossing and cut off aid to certain Central American countries, the Washington Post reported.
Mexico’s incoming foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, said Monday on Mexican radio that it would be a “big mistake” for the Mexican government to use its armed forces to try to stop the caravan, the newspaper wrote.
“It would be inadmissible in Mexico to use the army against these people,” he said, adding that he didn’t think Peña Nieto’s government was considering that step. “We would not be in agreement with that at all.”
With a proposal broached last July known as a “safe third country agreement” seemingly off the table — it was rejected by Mexico’s president-elect, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who campaigned on a gentler approach to migration— Mexico again finds itself caught between an outraged public and American officials pushing for it to stop the migrants.
“You have Trump’s government pressing Mr. Peña Nieto’s government to deter or stop the flows, but on the other hand, you have the pressure of public opinion and the new government saying you should treat the newcomers with dignity,” said Daniel Millan, a former spokesman in President Enrique Peña Nieto’s government who is now a political consultant. “They are walking a tightrope.”
The caravan remains more than 1,000 miles from the nearest US border, the Associated Press noted. And that distance would more than double if they opt to try Tijuana-San Diego rather than McAllen, Texas.
Modi Take All
Effectively admitting defeat in projecting Congress Party scion Rahul Gandhi as a rival to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the party confirmed Monday it would not name Gandhi as its candidate for prime minister ahead of next year’s general election.
In the interest of forming common cause with other opposition parties, Congress spokesman Sanjay Jha said the party would respect the “aspirations” of leaders from its potential partners – though it wouldn’t name any of them as a coalition prime minister candidate, either, Reuters reported.
The Congress also did not name a prime minister candidate in 2004, when Rahul’s mother Sonia Gandhi led the party to victory over the BJP by dint of key alliances with parties strong in the southern part of the country. However, analysts frequently suggest that India’s parliamentary elections are becoming more “presidential” – dominated by the image and rhetoric of the top leaders rather than party ideology.
The tacit acknowledgment of Gandhi’s weakness may also not augur well for India’s oldest political party’s ability to hold together a grand alliance of opposition parties, which are themselves helmed by experienced and ambitious politicians.
Last Minute Jitters
British Prime Minister Theresa May urged critical lawmakers to grant her more time to conclude the country’s thorny exit from the European Union, saying the so-called Brexit deal is 95 percent done and now is the time for the government to “hold our nerve.”
May said that the Irish border remains a “considerable sticking point” in the negotiations, but she is willing to “explore every possible option” to break the deadlock, the BBC reported. That includes extending the UK’s transition period beyond 2020, though that would be “undesirable,” she said.
At last week’s EU summit, European leaders refused to agree to a special Brexit meeting in November to seal the withdrawal agreement, saying negotiations hadn’t made enough headway yet.
In imploring parliament to “hold our nerve,” May once again ruled out a second Brexit referendum and denied reports that the bureaucracy was preparing for that possibility. Over the weekend, UK media suggested May might face a no-confidence vote if she failed to satisfy conservative critics.
Beer lovers might be in for some hard times due to climatic change.
An international team of researchers calculated that drought and heat could severely damage crops of barley – one of the main ingredients of beer – by the end of the century, the New York Times reported.
In a study in Nature Plants, the team combined mathematical and international trade models to better analyze how climate change will affect barley crops.
“We all love beer,” said co-author Dabo Guan.
The researchers primarily focused on developed countries, noting that after a bad drought the price of beer in Ireland would double, while the United States would lose 15 to 20 percent of its beer supply.
The focus on rich nations, said Guan, was meant to emphasize that climate change will affect everyone, not just poorer nations that could suffer serious food shortages.
Beer company Anheuser-Busch has taken the issue to heart and is closely monitoring climate predictions.
“The barley nerds are on the case,” company director of agronomy Jess Newman told the Times.
Guan and his team advise people to become more involved in the climate change issue instead of hitting the closest pub: “Our aim is not to encourage people to drink more beer now.”