The World Today for October 13, 2022

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Protesters took to the streets of Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, recently to wave Russian flags and condemn alleged meddling by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the impoverished, landlocked West African country’s former colonial overseer, France.

The demonstration occurred a few days after Capt. Ibrahim Traore, 34, staged a coup to oust Lt. Col. Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba from power. This came less than a year after Damiba seized power from democratically elected President Roch Marc Christian Kabore in his own coup, France 24 reported.

A young military officer with first-hand experience of fighting in the county’s unstable north, as CNN wrote, Traore claimed that Damiba and ECOWAS were failing to snuff out Islamic extremists who have killed thousands and displaced two million people from their homes. “Faced with the deteriorating situation, we tried several times to get Damiba to refocus…on the security question,” Traore told Reuters.

Analysts have estimated that Burkina Faso officials control only 60 percent of their country, Al Jazeera explained. Rebels allied with al Qaeda and Islamic State control the remaining 40 percent. The jihadists regularly blockade towns and stage attacks that kill scores of people.

Observers expect the country’s new leader will request assistance from Russia to bolster his rule and launch a new campaign against the extremists. As the Guardian wrote, Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the Wagner Group, a Russian military contractor – mercenaries, in other words – lauded the coup, describing Traore as “a truly courageous son of the motherland.”

Despite these developments, and even though Traore’s supporters were critical of ECOWAS’ role in Burkina Faso, a representative from the bloc said the new leader would continue to work on the country adopting constitutional rule rather than military juntas for its government. Traore has pledged to follow Damiba’s schedule of restoring constitutional politics within two years.

Meanwhile, rumors circulated that Damiba had fled to a French military base, which French officials denied. Hence the anger on the streets toward France. The BBC, however, reported that Damiba was in neighboring Togo.

The episode could signal a win for Russia in a long-running competition with France to exert more influence in the region. The Wagner Group, for example, has also been active in fighting Islamic extremists in nearby Mali, though, as Foreign Policy magazine noted, their performance in Mali has been less than stellar – not unlike the Russian army’s progress in Ukraine.

That doesn’t signal a good outcome for the troubled country.


The Right to Safety


Thousands of people took to the streets in Pakistan’s Swat Valley to protest against rising insecurity in the region following the murder of a bus driver by an unknown assailant this week, Al Jazeera reported.

Local officials said that more than 15,000 people attended Tuesday’s demonstrations – the sixth over the past two months – to express anger at the increase in killings in the area and demand the government does more to ensure the safety of Swat’s residents.

The protests came a day after a gunman on a motorcycle shot dead local bus driver Hussain Ahmed and wounded one student.

Police have ruled out “terrorism”, but said they are continuing to investigate.

Even so, Pakistani lawmaker Mohsin Dawar warned that there has been an increased presence of “militants” in the area with little done in reaction.

Monday’s attack occurred just after the 10th anniversary of the attempted assassination of Malala Yousafzai by the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP), also known as the Pakistani Taliban, in the Swat Valley. At the time, Yousafzai was a 15-year-old schoolgirl advocating for girls’ education. She was shot in the head for her activism, but survived.

She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.

Located about 150 miles from Pakistan’s capital Islamabad, Swat, a lush area of mountains, was long a vacation spot for Pakistanis until it became a major TTP stronghold. In 2009, the army drove the group out.

Still, violence continues in the area as peace talks between Pakistan’s security forces and the TTP have failed to yield any progress.

Symbolic Slap


Venezuela lost its seat on the United Nations Council of Human Rights this week, a move hailed by human rights activists and Venezuelan opposition groups as a symbolic victory against the government of President Nicolás Maduro, CNN reported.

The South American country had held a seat in the 47-member body since 2019, despite facing accusations of crimes against humanity and the imprisonment of dissidents.

But during the vote, Venezuela finished third with 88 votes, trailing Chile and Costa Rica for the two spots reserved for Latin American countries. Chile received 144 votes, while Costa Rica received 134.

The Venezuelan government did not comment on the loss.

The council is tasked with promoting human rights and addressing abuses around the world but has come under fire for allowing countries with questionable human rights records – such as Saudi Arabia, Cuba, and Russia – to participate. Russia was suspended from the council following its invasion of Ukraine in February.

Even so, many human rights advocates welcomed the vote, saying it sent a message to the Venezuelan government “to comply with their international responsibilities when it comes to human rights.”

Opposition groups in the country also supported the decision, noting that the lost seat meant criticism of Maduro’s regime had finally been heard.

Maduro’s government has become more globally isolated since 2019, when he won another six-year presidential term in an election generally regarded as a sham by the international community.

In an effort to mend its reputation, the government has allowed international bodies to probe alleged abuses.

Last month, the International Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela, established by the council in 2019, presented a report documenting alleged crimes against humanity, including acts of torture committed by Venezuelan security forces.

Still, it acknowledged the Venezuelan courts’ attempts to hold those responsible accountable.

New Kid on the Block


Political newcomer Sam Matekane will become Lesotho’s new prime minister after forming a three-party coalition following last week’s general election, the Associated Press reported.

Results showed that Matekane’s Revolution for Prosperity Party won 56 seats in the 120-seat parliament, just five seats shy of securing a majority with which to form a government.

The businessman-turned-politician who formed a party just this year was able to secure a slim 65-seat majority after forming a coalition with two smaller parties, the Alliance of Democrats and the Movement for Economic Change.

Metakane had previously said that his party would have to govern alone to implement his so-called “developmental agenda.”

But after failing to secure a majority, he announced the governing coalition this week, saying that all the partners share the same vision of cutting government expenditure and improving the delivery of public services.

Analyst Tlohang Letsie noted that the Revolution for Prosperity Party won because people were angry with the political status quo in the southern African kingdom.

Lesotho has been plagued by widespread poverty and chronic instability, especially so during the outgoing All Basotho Convention-led government.


No Space Left Behind

Most children doodle, usually out of boredom.

British artist Sam Cox, however, is trying to elevate it to high art. He recently fulfilled his dream of doodling on every square inch of his domicile.

“I’ve always wanted to live in a completely doodled house,” he told the Washington Post “It feels the most natural way to create art for me, and the most instinctive process when I pick up a pen and just start drawing.”

Cox – who goes by the nickname “Mr. Doodles” – bought a 13-room mansion in Kent, southeastern England in 2019. Together with his family and friends, they were able to first convert the house into a “white canvas” for the artist to begin his work.

No surface has been spared: Bedsheets, toilet seats, kitchen, and even computer mice are all filled with various doodles, including squiggles, animals and aliens.

“It’s living as an artwork,” he quipped.

It took nearly 240 gallons of white paint, 401 cans of black spray, 286 bottles of black drawing paint and almost 2,300 pen nibs to cover the mansion. Cox explained that he doesn’t overthink his doodles and he continued doing them despite making mistakes.

He added that the project took almost two years to complete and was possible thanks to the coronavirus lockdown.

Even though the eccentric abode can be a bit hurtful on the eyes, Cox and his artist wife Alina – known as “Mrs. Doodles” – have no problem living there.

Cox added that he wants to encourage others to think of their work as more than “just a doodle” and to know that it “can take you far.”

Take a peek inside the Doodles’ home here.

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