The World Today for December 10, 2018

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Radical Possibilities

Civil rights activists in Cameroon recently rejected the authority of a military court as they faced charges of terrorism and secession.

They claimed they were citizens of “Ambazonia,” the name of their self-declared republic in English-speaking regions of the mostly Francophone country, Agence France-Presse reported.

The judge, Col. Abega Mbezoa, was not pleased. “That country does not yet exist,” she said, according to the Journal du Cameroun.

The start of the trial marks a new era in a crisis that has rocked the Central African country for more than a year.

As the BBC explained, English-speakers, who comprise 20 percent of the population, went on strike and then formed militias in protest against the rule of 85-year-old President Paul Biya. They claimed the country was not following rules that mandate that English be considered on par with French.

Like many aging African strongmen – think former Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe – Biya has done little to accommodate his people’s concerns.

Over the objections of many who suggested he might consider letting someone else run the divided country, he ran for re-election in October and won a seventh term, though the results are in dispute. Violent protests broke out after the election, the Associated Press wrote. In one clash, an American missionary, Charles Trumann Wesco, was killed, apparently in the crossfire between separatists and government troops.

Opponents have questioned Biya’s victory, claiming voter fraud occurred, reported Agence France-Presse. Biya’s government arrested more than 50 opposition activists but later released them.

The government’s crackdown against Anglophone separatists and counterattacks by rebel militias have resulted in hundreds of deaths and displaced more than 400,000 people, UN officials estimate.

Some fear the violence could grow worse and spread.

US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Tibor Nagy recently warned that elements of the Anglophone insurgency and Francophone security forces could become “radicalized” if their concerns aren’t addressed.

Speaking to the Associated Press, Nagy noted that the Islamic State-affiliated Boko Haram had sprung up in neighboring Nigeria in response to that government’s crackdown on extremism and a breakdown of government services. The insurgent group continues its campaign of kidnappings, killings and other terrorist acts across several West African countries.

The Confederation of African Football’s decision to rescind its offer to hold the Africa Cup of Nations soccer tournament in Cameroon is likely to have a bigger impact on Biya’s reputation than Nagy’s complaints, however. Slow progress on soccer stadiums and the dismal security situation likely factored into the move, opined

Soccer was probably one of the few institutions that could unite Cameroonians. Despite his wealth of experience, Biya appears to have squandered the opportunity.



Can’t Confirm or Deny

The most significant climate change meeting since the Paris Agreement has rejected a bid to incorporate a key scientific report on the impacts of a temperature rise of 1.5C following dogged opposition from the US, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait.

The report said that the world is dismally failing to meet the goals laid out in Paris in 2015, heading more towards a 3C increase this century rather than 1.5C, the BBC said.

The scientists found that “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” – amounting to a 45 percent reduction in global emissions of carbon dioxide by 2030 – would be required to restrict warming to 1.5C this century.

But due to strenuous objections from Saudi Arabia and other delegates in Poland for the so-called COP24 meeting, a passage acknowledging the report’s findings had to be dropped under UN rules. Scientists raged at the outcome.

“We are really angry and find it atrocious that some countries dismiss the messages and the consequences that we are facing,” said Yamide Dagnet from the World Resources Institute.


Continuity, With Change

Long helmed by Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany’s ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) selected Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer as party leader on Friday, putting her on track to replace Merkel as Germany’s next chancellor.

Known as “AKK,” Kramp-Karrenbauer represented continuity for the CDU, narrowly edging out Friedrich Merz, who would have pushed the party further to the right, CNBC reported. But AKK, too, is looking to change the party’s migrant policies before next year’s European election, Reuters reported.

Her election will likely enable Merkel to serve out her term, which ends in 2021, CNBC said. But AKK said she plans a “workshop discussion” with experts and critics aimed to revamp the party’s migrant and refugee policies in a bid to stem the losses that have resulted from Merkel’s 2015 open-door approach.

“You stand on the shoulders of your predecessor. What is good is continued and where there is room to change things, we will make changes,” AKK told broadcaster ARD.

One likely possibility: She has argued that migrants must learn German and those with a criminal record cannot stay.


Race Rally

Tens of thousands of Malaysian Muslims took to the streets on Saturday to decry any effort to remove preferential status granted to the country’s ethnic Malay majority.

Organized by Malaysia’s two largest opposition Malay parties, the protest originally targeted Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s alliance government’s plan to ratify a UN treaty against racial discrimination that would have ended such privileges, the Associated Press reported.

But after those plans were officially abandoned, the organizers went ahead anyway with a so-called “thanksgiving” rally that marked the first major street demonstrations since Mahathir’s election in May.

After deadly race riots in 1969, Malaysia instituted a preferential program that gives Malays privileges in jobs, education, contracts and housing in an effort to reduce the economic gap separating them and ethnic Chinese citizens.

Racial conflict has been rare since then, and Malaysia’s Gini coefficient, the generally accepted measure of inequality, has fallen from 0.513 in 1970 to 0.399 in 2016, Singapore’s Straits Times reported. A Gini of zero means everyone is earning the same amount.


Birds of a Feather

Gorillas are intelligent creatures. They also don’t mind bending the rules a bit if it suits them.

Case in point: Researchers in England observed that gorillas at the Bristol Zoo Gardens would cheat while trying to solve a puzzle game, Reuters reported.

In this case, the big apes were presented with a wall-mounted device where they had to guide a peanut through obstacles by poking a stick through various holes.

Some would play along and move the nut all the way to the bottom. Others cheated by sucking the treat from the holes using their lips.

Fay Clark, an animal welfare scientist with the zoo, said that this behavior showed that great apes are flexible and able to find new solutions.

“They have some fascinating problem-solving abilities that have probably not been witnessed before,” she told the news agency.

The puzzle game is part of the Gorilla Game Lab project, which the zoo says aims to create a “positive psychological state of pleasure and satisfaction” among the gorillas.

The apes have shown a lot of interest in the game, regardless of whether they got a reward.

Researchers hope the project will help zookeepers better understand the mental and physical condition of the animals. Meanwhile, it keeps the gorillas busy and entertained, even when they occasionally get frustrated: The scientists say the game has proved a hit with the apes, who keep coming back for more, even when there are no nuts to win.

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