Category Archives: Education

Top Algerian Military Commanders Being Purged Ahead of Presidential Election

A number of top Algerian military commanders, including the heads of the air force and the army, have been dismissed within the past week.
In a series of moves, at least a dozen top officers have been replaced since June.
Analysts say that a core of military officers under the deputy defense minister are consolidating their power in the lead up to presidential elections next spring, which ailing outgoing President Abdel Aziz Bouteflika is expected to win.
Algerian state TV announced the ouster of a number of top military commanders earlier this week, including the country’s air force chief and the army’s head of ground operations. One top officer fled to Paris with his family through Algiers International Airport, prompting the firing of top airport security personnel.
A former Algerian diplomat, Mohammed Zeytout, told an Egyptian TV station the firings were part of an “extremely ugly power struggle” in which “top generals are firing, deposing or arresting each other, while some are trying to flee the country.” Former military officers have had their passports canceled and are not being allowed to travel.
HilalKhashan, who teaches political science at the American University of Beirut, termed the purges a “pre-emptive coup,” while Mohammed Zeytout called them “unprecedented except for countries that have undergone regime change or a coup.”
Bouteflika is running for a fifth term this coming spring, despite poor health, and Khashan says those who support him are using him as a figurehead behind which to govern.
“There is an agreement among the power elite in Algeria to keep Abdel Aziz Bouteflika in office because they run the country since he is incapacitated and they hide behind him and that gives them a sense of legitimacy,” Khashan said. “The fear is that if Bouteflika is gone, Algeria would be gravely destabilized.”
Khashan points out that Army Chief of Staff Gaid Salah, who appears to be calling the shots, has been using corruption as a pretext to get rid of possible rivals. “Corruption,” he said “is nothing new in Algeria. It is a way of life.”
France’s influential Le Monde newspaper reported that top army officers have been accused of “running up to 30 private companies, each,” both in their own names and in the names of family members.
Mohammed Bashoush, who teaches political science at the University of Algiers, told Al Hurra TV he thinks the current turmoil in Algeria is nevertheless part of an agreement between civilian and military leaders.
Bashoush said it is obvious the changes taking place in the military are directly related to preparations for the upcoming presidential elections, and despite the conflict between opposing sides, both the political and military wings of the presidency have come to a consensus over a road map to follow.
Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia told a press conference earlier this week, during the visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, that despite turmoil, Algeria has a free press and everyone is allowed to speak out.
Ouyahia said freedom of expression is an integral part of the Algerian press and its 160 newspapers, and no one is penalized for what they write about the president, the prime minister or the institutions of state.
But former diplomat Zeytout was less sanguine.
“President Bouteflika is sick and his health is miserable. He hasn’t addressed the people in 6 years and 4 months,” Zeytout said. “No one wants to talk about it, but the real power center is Army Chief of Staff Gaid Salah, who runs the country surrounded by 30 other generals.”

Source: Voice of America

Burkina Faso Arrests 30 Over Illegal Female Circumcisions

Burkina Faso authorities have jailed more than 30 adults after they carried out botched female genital mutilation on nearly 60 infants and girls who have been hospitalized.
Viviane Ursule Sanou, head of the National Secretariat against Circumcision, said Tuesday the banned procedure was carried out on girls and young women ranging from 10 months to 24 years old in the capital, Ouagadougou, Kaya in the north and two towns in the central east.
She says because the practice is illegal, many people carry out the circumcisions in secret. All of the victims have been admitted to hospitals for treatment of hemorrhage and infection.
Burkina Faso adopted measures banning female circumcision in the early ’90s. The penal code adopted this year suggests up to 10 years in prison and severe fines.

Source: Voice of America

US Must Support Ethiopia’s ‘Fragile’ Reforms, Diplomat Says

The United States should strengthen its ties to Ethiopia following unprecedented reforms in the East African nation, a top U.S. diplomat said Wednesday.
Tibor Nagy, the newly appointed assistant secretary of the U.S. Bureau of African Affairs, told members of a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee in Washington that Ethiopia has earned praise for its historic changes.
“Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has initiated groundbreaking reforms across most every area of Ethiopian society,” Nagy said. “He deserves tremendous credit for his boldness in tackling issues previous governments have not addressed.”
But Nagy also outlined a number of unresolved concerns and urged the United States to continue to engage with Ethiopia, mobilize resources to provide aid and assistance, and maintain dialog with the country’s leadership in the wake of momentous reforms that, nonetheless, remain “quite fragile.”
Eritrea’s ‘re-emergence’
Representative Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican who is chairman of the Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations Subcommittee, outlined Abiy’s accomplishments: releasing thousands of political prisoners, lifting a state of emergency and securing peace with neighbor Eritrea.
Officials at Wednesday’s hearing celebrated the July peace deal that ended nearly 20 years of war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, but they expressed concerns about the internal dynamics in Eritrea, a country that has faced U.N. sanctions since 2009 for allegedly supporting the extremist group al-Shabab and a border dispute with Djibouti.
Smith said Eritrea could become a “critical U.S. strategic partner,” and Nagy welcomed “Eritrea’s re-emergence on the regional and global stage.”
But Nagy also expressed “significant concerns” about the countries’ bilateral relationship, citing the Eritrean detention of American citizens, possible arms deals with North Korea and human rights concerns.
“The United States has deliberately engaged with Eritrea in recent months with both these opportunities and concerns in full view,” Nagy said.
Peace with Ethiopia eliminates Eritrea’s reasons to militarize its population, particularly through the use of indefinite forced conscription, Nagy added. And, although the “atmosphere” between the United States and Eritrea has improved, he said, concrete actions will need to be taken to introduce internal reforms before sanctions can be lifted.
As a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, the United States has the power to veto any vote to remove sanctions.
Youth factor
In his remarks, Nagy underscored the importance of Ethiopia’s youth. Some 70 million people — about 70 percent of the population — are under age 30, Nagy said, and they have high expectations of their government.
As the country’s demographics shift, many additional people will enter the workforce, emphasizing the need for new jobs.
So far, Ethiopia has turned to China as a stalwart economic partner, Nagy said, but that may soon be changing, especially as the country’s economic concerns shift from building an infrastructure to supporting a workforce.
“Ethiopians understand that China isn’t the long-term solution to their problems,” Nagy said, adding that the U.S. government should reach out to American companies to forge new relationships with Ethiopia and engage in more trade.
Unresolved threats
Smith; California Democrat Karen Bass, the subcommittee’s ranking member; and Nagy outlined unaddressed concerns with Ethiopian governance and civil society, including ongoing reports of torture, a high incidence of human trafficking, and what Bass described as “hardliners within the EPRDF [Ethiopia’s ruling political coalition] that hope to stall his [Abiy’s] reform agenda.”
Smith emphasized the need to redress victims of torture, repeal laws that encourage gross human rights abuses and resolve a mass displacement that has resulted in 2.5 million people fleeing their homes.
Experts on the region identified other fault lines.
YosephBadwaza, a senior program officer at Freedom House, a nongovernmental research and advocacy group in Washington that focuses on democracy and human rights, said Ethiopia faces enormous challenges and is still grappling with much-needed reforms to its judicial system, electoral system and other democratic institutions.
Emily Estelle, a senior analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative research group in Washington, highlighted the volatile nature of fast-changing regional dynamics.
“The potential for Ethiopia to destabilize persists. It faces a rapid political transition and ethnic conflict across multiple regions,” Estelle said in prepared remarks. The United States must prepare for “worst-case scenarios,” Estelle added, by recognizing “the dangers of rapidly changing domestic and regional dynamics in the Horn of Africa.”
But changes this year indicate just how much can happen when leaders commit to peace, and both committee members and invited experts emphasized the region’s accomplishments in recent months.
Citing a series of rapprochements between Eritrea and its neighbors, Nagy said, “In my 40 years of following Africa, I’ve never seen this type of transition happen.”

Source: Voice of America

At Least 19 Killed in South Sudan Plane Crash

Nineteen people were killed in a plane crash in South Sudan Sunday, officials said.
At least 22 people were aboard the flight from the capital Juba’s international airport to the city of Yirol when it crashed.
An Italian citizen working with a non-profit was identified as one of the survivors, and was reported to be in stable condition after being flown back to Juba.
Several crashes have occurred in war-torn South Sudan in recent years. In 2017, four passengers were injured when a plane crashed into a truck trying to land in the city of Wau amid bad weather.
In 2015, 36 people were killed when a Russian-built cargo plane with passengers crashed shortly after taking off from Juba.

Source: Voice of America

Who Is Chinese Professor Wenguang Sun?

VOA Mandarin has attempted to reach Professor Wenguang Sun since he was removed from his home during a live interview earlier this week.

The professor, who lives in Jinan, the capital of eastern China’s Shandong province, has not responded. Sources in Shandong told VOA on Thursday that Sun was in a military-run hotel.

On Wednesday, Chinese police broke into the home of the retired Shandong University professor, who is critical of China’s human rights record, as he was expressing via a telephone interview his opinions on the Voice of America (VOA) Mandarin television show, Issues & Opinions.

VOA Mandarin has attempted to reach Sun by cellphone and WeChat, a popular social media platform.

In response to the incident, Congressman Chris Smith, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and co-chairman of the Congressional Executive Committee on China, said on Thursday, “In an apparent attempt to chill an open exchange of ideas and opinions, Chinese police may have forcibly stopped a Voice of America interview with Professor Wenguang Sun.

“There is currently no information about Professor Sun’s whereabouts, but we urge his immediate release if detained for engaging in what should be his right to free speech,” said Smith, who also chairs the House subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations.

“The Chinese and American people must continue to work toward a day when someone like Prof. Sun can openly share his opinions, via a free press, without fear of reprisal,” he added in a statement Thursday.

Senator Marco Rubio on Thursday tweeted: “Every time you hear overblown rhetoric about how we are on the verge of ‘tyranny’ or ‘authoritarianism’ in America remember what real tyranny looks like. In #China the police arrested a Xi critic while he was in the middle of a live interview.”

A look at Sun’s background:

* Born in 1934

* Graduated from Shandong University Department of Physics in 1957, where he stayed on as a teacher

* Detained in “cowsheds” during the Cultural Revolution in the mid-1960s

* Sentenced in 1978 to seven years in prison for “attacking Great Leader Chairman Mao”

* Rehabilitated in 1982, returned to teaching at Shandong University

* Retired from Shandong University in 1994

* Most recent book, A Century of Disasters: From Mao Zedong to Jiang Zemin, published in Hong Kong in 2004

* Passport application denied in 2005, unable to travel aboard since

* One of initial co-signers of Charter 08, a petition for democracy in China

* Shandong University reduced his pension in March

* Criticized China’s checkbook diplomacy in an open letter posted on the eve of President Xi Jinping’s July trip to Africa

* Police break into his home in Jinan during a live interview with Voice of America on Aug. 1, 2018. Last words via telephone were: “I am entitled to express my opinion. This is my freedom of speech.”

Source: Voice of America