Planet Watch
Daouda Diallo

Frontline fighters (and martyrs) for free speech

In Burma, the mutilated body of independent journalist Myat Thu Tan was found at the military base where he had been detained, after the camp was overrun by rebels of the pro-democratic resistance. In Kazakhstan, detained activist Aqylbek Muratbai is fighting extradition to Uzbekistan, where he had been speaking out against bloody repression faced by his Karakalpak ethnic minority. And in Burkina Faso, human rights defender Daouda Dialloremains missing months after was “disappeared,” presumably at the hands of the ruling military junta. Yet neither the mainstream media nor “progressives” in the West pay heed to these cases—while the reactionary and Kremlin-coopted Julian Assange is a cause cĂ©lèbre. In Episode 214 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg asks: Why is that? Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Image: CISC via OHCR)

Africa
Kremlin

Russia’s grain-for-influence gambit

Russian President Vladimir Putin has pledged free grain to six African nations. The announcement comes one week after Russia withdrew from the Black Sea grain deal, triggering a spike in global prices. Opening the Africa-Russian summit in St. Petersburg, Putin promised to send 25,000 to 50,000 tons of free grain to Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, Central African Republic, and Eritrea. The countries are among Moscow’s closest allies on the continent, but they are not all the most food-import dependent. UN Secretary-General AntĂłnio Guterres warned that a “handful of donations” would not correct the market impact of Russia’s termination of the year-long deal, which had cut cereal prices by more than one third. The African Union echoed Guterres’ criticism. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Africa
cabo delgado

Rwanda’s quick win in Mozambique: how real?

Rwandan and Mozambican troops retook the port city of MocĂ­mboa da Praia from Islamist militants—their last stronghold in Mozambique’s northern Cabo Delgado province. The 1,000 Rwandan troops, who arrived in the country last month to help the government battle a four-year insurgency, have proved their effectiveness in a series of skirmishes. They are also being joined by units from regional neighbors Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. But analysts are warning that the insurgents—known colloquially as al-Shabab—are choosing not to stand their ground, preferring to retreat into the countryside. Military force doesn’t address the drivers of the conflict, nor does it prevent ill-disciplined Mozambican troops—who often struggle to distinguish between insurgent and civilian—from stoking further tensions through abuses of the populace. More than 3,000 people have been killed and 820,000 displaced by the conflict. (Map via Moscow Times)

Africa
Cabo Delgado

Mozambique conflict draws in neighboring countries

Jihadist insurgents variously calling themselves “al-Shabaab” or the “Islamic State Central Africa Province” are fast escalating brutal attacks in Mozambique’s oil-rich Cabo Delgado province, in the north of the country. In twin attacks last week, more than 50 residents were beheaded in Muatide village, where militants turned a football field into an “execution ground,” and several more were beheaded and houses put to the torch in Nanjaba village. Last month, hundreds of insurgents crossed the Ruvuma River into Tanzania, and attacked the border village of Kitaya, beheading 20 residents. Landlocked Zimbabwe, which depends on unimpeded passage through Mozambique for access to the sea, has broached military intervention, and is seeking approval for joint action from the Southern African Development Community (SADC). (Photo via ISS Africa)

Watching the Shadows
belarus cops

Podcast: Julian Assange, agent of fascism

In Episode 31 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg documents the ugly far-right politics of Julian Assange of WikiLeaks, and how the 2010 document dump risked the lives of dissidents under authoritarian regimes in places like Zimbabwe—and may have constituted outright collaboration with the repressive dictatorship of Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus. An objective reading of the circumstances around the 2016 Wikileaks dump of Democratic Party e-mails reveals Assange as a Kremlin asset and Trump collaborator, an active agent in a Russian-lubricated effort to throw the US elections—part of Putin’s grander design to impose a fascist world order. Weinberg also notes that the ACLU and Committee to Protect Journalists have issued statements warning that the charges against Assange may pose a threat to press freedom. But he argues that even if we must protest his prosecution, we should do so while refraining from glorifying Assange—and, indeed, while forthrightly repudiating him as a dangerous political enemy of all progressive values. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo Libcom.org)

Africa

Climate catastrophe in suffering Mozambique

A humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, as the full scale of devastation from Cyclone Idai becomes clear. The World Meteorological Organization says Idai could become the worst tropical cyclone on record in the Southern Hemisphere. Mozambique's President Filipe Nyusi fears that 1,000 people may have lost their lives in his country alone. The UN World Food Program warns of "a major humanitarian emergency that is getting bigger by the hour." And, as after similar "mega-storms" of recent years, the link to global climate destabilization is evident. "Cyclone Idai is a clear demonstration of the exposure and vulnerability of many low-lying cities and towns to sea-level rise as the impact of climate change continues to influence and disrupt normal weather patterns,” said Mami Mizutori, UN Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction. (Photo: WikiMedia via Jurist)

Mexico

Oil and unrest in Zimbabwe, Mexico

World oil prices remain depressed despite an uptick this month, driven by the Venezuela crisis and fear of US-China trade war. Yet this month also saw Zimbabwe explode into angry protests over fuel prices. The unrest was sparked when the government doubled prices, in an effort to crack down on “rampant” illegal trading. Simultaneously, long lines at gas stations are reported across Mexico—again due to a crackdown on illegal petrol trafficking. Despite all the talk in recent years about how low oil prices are now permanent (mirrored, of course, in the similar talk 10 years ago about how high prices were permanent), the crises in Zimbabwe and Mexico may be harbingers of a coming global shock. (Photo via Amnesty International)

Africa

Zimbabwe: new leader implicated in massacres

The swearing in of Zimbabwe's new President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa is being hailed as opening a new era for the country that had been ruled by Robert Mugabe from independence in 1980 until his dramatic downfall this week. But  some are demanding accountability over Mnangagwa's role in ethnic massacres against the country's Ndebele minority people in the 1980s.

Mexico
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mosque162

World oil prices remain depressed despite an uptick this month, driven by the Venezuela crisis and fear of US-China trade war. Yet this month also saw Zimbabwe explode into angry protests over fuel prices. The unrest was sparked when the government doubled prices, in an effort to crack down on "rampant" illegal trading. Simultaneously, long lines at gas stations are reported across Mexico—again due to a crackdown on illegal petrol trafficking. Despite all the talk in recent years about how low oil prices are now permanent (mirrored, of course, in the similar talk 10 years ago about how high prices were permanent), the crises in Zimbabwe and Mexico may be harbingers of a coming global shock. (Photo via Amnesty International)