The World Today for February 27, 2019

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The Waiting Game

They are used to waiting in Guinea.

The West African nation often called Guinea-Conakry – to distinguish it from similarly named countries like Guinea-Bissau and Equatorial Guinea – held free and fair elections for the first time only in 2010.

People are still waiting for justice in a 2009 case where security forces massacred more than 150 peaceful opposition supporters and raped dozens of women in a stadium, wrote Human Rights Watch. Two years ago, 13 suspects who allegedly orchestrated the killings were indicted. But their trial has yet to start.

People are waiting for efficient public services, too.

Blogger Fatoumata Chérif, the founder of “Selfie-déchets,” or “Rubbish Selfies,” received coverage in France 24 for her efforts to clean up the country and its Atlantic coast. The government has sent troops to collect trash, but the problem persists.

“There have been no measures taken to prevent people from discarding rubbish on the beach or in the streets,” Chérif said. “The government has occasionally called on the army to help with the waste crisis. On Dec. 4, military units carried out clean-up operations in several different neighborhoods in Conakry.”

Still, trash is likely the least of what many citizens of Guinea-Conakry worry about. Many workers risk their lives digging for gold and other minerals in mines that are vital to the country’s economy but subject to landslides, reported Agence France-Presse.

Corruption is rampant. A court recently sentenced 19 people for conspiring in the assassination of the head of the public treasury after he busted their embezzlement scheme.

Poverty is widespread. This Radio France Internationale report on a controversy over imported vs. locally grown Irish potatoes gives an intimate look into a slice of the country’s society and economy, and shows how dire the employment and living situation is for many in the country.

Now, the presidential election in 2020 is shaping up as referendum on the administration of President Alpha Condé, who took office in 2010 as the country’s first freely elected head of the state. Technically, Condé is barred from seeking a third term, but he is trying to amend the constitution to allow him to run again, explained Madina Diallo, a researcher at the Clingendael Institute, a Dutch think tank.

Condé delayed local elections for years. More recently, he postponed legislative elections originally scheduled for 2018 to an unknown date, leaving him vulnerable to criticism from challengers impugning his respect for democracy, the French newspaper Le Monde wrote.

“The goal of the Alpha Condé regime is simply to stifle any form of contradiction to his diktat,” an opposition member told the French-language

The politicians have about two years to convince voters they have a plan to clean things up. The people are waiting.



Touchy Calibration

Tensions between India and Pakistan flamed Tuesday after a pre-dawn raid in which New Delhi claimed to have hit a terrorist training camp inside Pakistan.

India said the strike killed “a very large number” of militants, while Pakistan insisted there were no casualties, the Associated Press reported. So far, it appears that the response to a suicide bombing that killed more than 40 soldiers in Indian-administered Kashmir on Feb. 14 was, at least from New Delhi’s perspective, correctly calibrated to sting Pakistan without prompting an all-out war.

The move marks an escalation from the so-called “surgical strikes” that were Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s previous response to an attack that India also blamed on Pakistan in 2016, the Times of India reported, as this was the first time since the 1971 India-Pakistan war that the Indian Air Force crossed into Pakistan-controlled air space to strike targets on the other side of the Line of Control.

It also sets the stage for Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party to trumpet his “muscular” leadership and tough stance against Pakistan before elections later this spring, the Hindustan Times said.


Shunning Ballots

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari was re-elected for another four-year term in this weekend’s election.

The 76-year-old incumbent beat former Vice President Atiku Abubakar by a little less than four million votes, the BBC reported, noting that the election commission will make a formal declaration of the results Wednesday.

Following violence and a last-minute postponement, turnout was only 35.6 percent – the lowest in 20 years – and Abubakar’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) rejected the result.

“We demand the immediate and outright cancellation of presidential election results in Yobe, Zamfara, Nasarawa and Borno states … and ask for the conduct of fresh elections in these states,” PDP spokesman Tanimu Turaki said, according to CNN.

However, no independent election observer has made allegations of electoral fraud.

As the Economist noted, Buhari has failed to deliver on his first-term promises to rejuvenate the economy and defeat Boko Haram. Meanwhile, Bloomberg Economics forecast that a Buhari victory would likely presage more government interference in the economy and slower growth.


Escaping a Ban

Analysts from the Brazilian health agency Anvisa determined that the weed-killer glyphosate, better known by the brand name Roundup used by Monsanto, does not cause cancer, but they nevertheless recommended precautions in how it is used.

The analysts presented their findings to Anvisa’s directors Tuesday, and the agency voted to advance them to a 90-day public consultation before a final decision, Reuters reported. Assuming the findings stand, the weed-killer will escape a ban in Brazil, even as the US, France and Germany weigh the future of the chemical in those markets.

“There is no scientific evidence that glyphosate causes health damage beyond shown in tests with laboratory animals,” Anvisa Director Alessandra Soares said.

Still, concerns continue to dog the product.

A jury in California last year found Monsanto responsible for causing a man’s cancer, awarding $78 million in damages because the company failed to warn customers about its dangers. And a similar case is currently underway, Reuters noted.


Creating ABC’s

With only 800 speakers of Sanna left and no written record, the Maronite minority in Cyprus fears they might lose the language of their ancestors.

A mix of Arabic and ancient Aramaic, Sanna was brought to the island around the 8th century, when Christian Maronites migrated from the Middle East.

It’s now spoken only in the village of Kormakitis, and the youngest Sanna speakers are now in their 50s, BBC Travel reported.

A problem with the language is that it was never written down, and new generations stopped teaching it to their children as time passed.

“Sanna was only an oral language,” according to Sanna teacher Elias Zonias. “There was no alphabet. As a result, we’ve lost everything. There are no songs or poems.”

Now, residents are trying to keep the language alive and put it on paper for future generations to learn.

Several experts, under the direction of prominent linguist Alexander Borg, managed to develop an alphabet for Sanna.

“Now we’re constantly writing, translating books, songs and Christmas carols,” Zonias added.

For Sanna speaker Antonis Skoullos, this revival is important to the heritage and the future of the Maronite community.

“Sanna is our past, our history, and without that we cannot aim into our future,” he said.

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