ISIS DOCUMENTS LEAKED
A disillusioned ISIS fighter gave a Sky News reporter a memory stick stolen from the terrorist organization containing tens of thousands of documents, as well as 22,000 names, addresses, telephone numbers and family contacts of jihadist fighters. The disclosure of these documents could prove to be a boon to Western intelligence. The source is apparently a former fighter in the â€œmoderate rebelâ€ Free Syrian Army who later joined ISIS, before becoming disillusioned with the terror groupâ€™s leadership. The documents also show how recruits are required to complete a 23-question form, asking for both personal details and past jihadist experience. According to The Guardian, the documents were first leaked to German intelligence.
â€œI am proud that the gentleman who is the head of Goldman Sachs ... said I was dangerous, and heâ€™s right. I am dangerous for Wall Street,â€ Bernie Sanders said during last nightâ€™s Democratic presidential debate with rival Hillary Clinton, receiving cheers from the crowd. As The Hill notes, itâ€™s becoming increasingly clear that the two candidates are â€œgetting under each otherâ€™s skin.â€ Asked by one of the moderators whether sheâ€™d drop the race if she was indicted over the private email server she used as Secretary of State, Clinton refused to answer, retorting instead, â€œItâ€™s not going to happen. Iâ€™m not worried about it, and no Democrat or American should be, either.â€
ECB TO ANNOUNCE STIMULUS MOVES
All market eyes will be looking towards Frankfurt today where European Central Bank President Mario Draghi is expected to announce new measures to boost both the eurozone economy and low inflation. Having said in December that there were â€œno limitsâ€ to ECBâ€™s efforts, Draghi will likely increase its quantitative easing program while further cutting its already negative interest rate, despite growing concern that the policy is â€œdoing more harm than good.â€ Read more from The Wall Street Journal.
In France, the twin problems of the economic crisis and university studies taking longer than expected have conspired to force many young adults to return home to their parents. As Pascale Krémer reports for Le Monde, the problem is that they sometimes bring their partners with them. â€œThis intergenerational cohabitation is definitely a thing,â€ he writes. â€œIn France, 4.5 million young adults live with their parents or friends, according to a recent study by the Abbé Pierre Foundation. The average age for young people to leave the nest is 23.5, six months older than in 2008. In Paris and its surrounding region, fully half of young adults under 25 still live with their parents. But often these arrangements come with not just one, but two, young people.â€
Read the full article, The French Boomerang: When Adult Kids Move Back Home (With Lover In Tow).
QUEEN DENIES SUPPORTING BREXIT
Queen Elizabeth filed a complaint with the British press watchdog yesterday after Rupert Murdochâ€™s tabloid The Sun reported that she supported Britainâ€™s exit from the EU. If true, the claims would mark a break in the Queenâ€™s official political neutrality. But speaking to the BBC, the newspaperâ€™s editor-in-chief Tony Gallagher stood by his story. Read more from Le Blog.
Photo: Brocken Inaglory/GFDL
At least 1,338 African rhinos were killed by poachers in 2015, a grim figure thatâ€™s been steadily rising for the past six years. Demand is high for rhino horns in countries such as China and Vietnam, where they are believed to offer a miracle cure for cancer and other diseases. The International Union for Conservation of Nature said the situation was particularly worrying in Namibia and Zimbabwe.
BRAZILâ€™S LULA CHARGED
Prosecutors have indicted former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva for money laundering and misrepresentation of assets just days after he was detained for questioning as part of the Petrobras corruption scandal. A judge must still formally accept the charges for the case to proceed. Meanwhile, Folha de S. Paulo reports that Lulaâ€™s successor, Dilma Rousseff, is still under the threat of impeachment partly because of her alleged involvement in the Petrobras conspiracy, and that she is being pressured to appoint Lula as a minister in her government to protect him from the investigation. Amid these developments, Lula is apparently gearing up for a comeback.
ON THIS DAY
Itâ€™s a Chuck Norris/Alexander Graham Bell mashup in todayâ€™s 57-second of history.
SUU KYI WONâ€™T BE MYANMARâ€™S PRESIDENT
Aung San Suu Kyiâ€™s hopes to become Myanmarâ€™s president seem to be all but over after her National League for Democracy party nominated two of her loyalists for the job, AP reports. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate is said to have had several closed door meetings with the military, but she apparently failed to convince them to suspend a constitutional clause that bars her from becoming president because her late husband and her two sons are British. But Suu Kyi will be expected to call the shots from behind the scenes after her party won a landslide victory in November.
MY GRAND-PERE'S WORLD
RESTORATION GONE WRONG
The restoration of a 1,000-year-old castle in Cádiz, Spain, has left locals and conservation groups bemused and outraged. Some describe the work as a â€œmassacreâ€ of a heritage site. Failed restorations seem to have become a habit in Spain: Remember this painting?
The military has seized control in one of Africa's largest countries, which until recently had made significant progress towards transitioning to democracy after years of strongman rule. But the people, and international community, may not be willing to turn back.
This week the head of Sudan's Sovereign Council, General Abdel Fattah El Burhan, declared the dissolution of the transitional council, which has been in place since the overthrow of former president Omar el-Bashir in 2019. He also disbanded all the structures that had been set up as part of the transitional roadmap, and decreed a state of emergency.
In essence, he staged a palace coup against the transitional authority he chaired.
The general's actions, which included the arrest of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, are a culmination of a long period of tension between the civilian and military wings of the council.
A popular uprising may be inevitable
The tensions were punctuated by an alleged attempted coup only weeks earlier. The days leading to the palace coup were marked by street protests for and against the military. Does this mark the end of the transition as envisaged by the protest movement?
Their ability to confront counter revolutionary forces cannot be underestimated.
The popular uprising against Bashir's government was led by the Sudan Professional Association. It ushered in the political transitional union of civilians and the military establishment. The interim arrangement was to lead to a return to civilian rule.
But this cohabitation was tenuous from the start, given the oversized role of the military in the transition. Moreover, the military appeared to be reluctant to see the civilian leadership as an equal partner in shepherding through the transition.
Nevertheless, until recently there had been progress towards creating the institutional architecture for the transition. Despite the challenges and notable tension between the signatories to the accord, it was never evident that the dysfunction was so great as to herald the collapse of the transitional authority.
For now, the transition might be disrupted and in fact temporarily upended. But the lesson from Sudan is never to count the masses out of the equation. Their ability to mobilize and confront counter revolutionary forces cannot be underestimated.
The transitional pact itself had been anchored by eight arduously negotiated protocols. These included regional autonomy, integration of the national army, revenue sharing and repatriation of internal refugees. There was also an agreement to share out positions in national political institutions, such as the legislative and executive branch.
Progress towards these goals was at different stages of implementation. More substantive progress was expected to follow after the end of the transition. This was due in 2022 when the chair of the sovereignty council handed over to a civilian leader. This military intervention is clearly self-serving and an opportunistic power grab.
A promised to civilian rule in July 2023 through national elections.
In November, the rotational chairmanship of the transitional council was to be passed from the military to the civilian wing of the council. That meant the military would cede strong leverage to the civilians. Instead, with the coup afoot, Burhan has announced both a dissolution of the council as well as the dismissal of provincial governors. He has unilaterally promised return to civilian rule in July 2023 through national elections.
Prior to this, the military had been systematically challenging the pre-eminence of the civilian authority. It undermined them and publicly berated them for governmental failures and weaknesses. For the last few months there has been a deliberate attempt to sharply criticize the civilian council as riddled with divisions, incompetent and undermining state stability.
File photo shows Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok in August 2020
Generals in suits
Since the revolution against Bashir's government, the military have fancied themselves as generals in suits. They have continued to wield enough power to almost run a parallel government in tension with the prime minister. This was evident when the military continued to have the say on security and foreign affairs.
For their part, civilian officials concentrated on rejuvenating the economy and mobilizing international support for the transitional council.
This didn't stop the military from accusing the civilian leadership of failing to resuscitate the country's ailing economy. True, the economy has continued to struggle from high inflation, low industrial output and dwindling foreign direct investment. As in all economies, conditions have been exacerbated by the effects of COVID-19.
Sudan's weakened economy is, however, not sufficient reason for the military intervention. Clearly this is merely an excuse.
Demands of the revolution
The success or failure of this coup will rest on a number of factors.
First is the ability of the military to use force. This includes potential violent confrontation with the counter-coup forces. This will dictate the capacity of the military to change the terms of the transition.
Second is whether the military can harness popular public support in the same way that the Guinean or Egyptian militaries did. This appears to be a tall order, given that popular support appears to be far less forthcoming.
The international community's appetite for military coups is wearing thin.
Third, the ability of the Sudanese masses to mobilize against military authorities cannot be overlooked. Massive nationwide street protests and defiance campaigns underpinned by underground organizational capabilities brought down governments in 1964, 1985 and 2019. They could once again present a stern test to the military.
Finally, the international community's appetite for military coups is wearing thin. The ability of the military to overcome pressure from regional and international actors to return to the status quo could be decisive, given the international support needed to prop up the crippled economy.
The Sudanese population may have been growing frustrated with its civilian authority's ability to deliver on the demands of the revolution. But it is also true that another coup to reinstate military rule is not something the protesters believe would address the challenges they were facing.
Sudan has needed and will require compromise and principled political goodwill to realise a difficult transition. This will entail setbacks but undoubtedly military intervention in whatever guise is monumentally counterproductive to the aspirations of the protest movement.
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