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Our 42nd year of publishing The International Observer online


Barely a month has gone by when West Africa and the world faced a new military coup d’état, on 30 August in Gabon]. The country is not seriously threatened by insurgency and hosting French military forces. But the prolonged presence of a head of state for nearly 14 years – and by no means one of the continent’s longest serving rulers – was one reason for some Gabonese to wish for a change. Especially when the military coup d’état on 30 August dramatically and ostentatiously took effect within minutes of announcement of the second and controversial reelection of the president. Some benefit from oil revenues but poverty is widespread and political recurring demonstrations and unrest are usually linked to the presence and deep influence of just one family of presidents. The latest junta head has promised to restore civilian rule and holding free elections.  

There is little doubt that the suspicious death of  the chief of the Wagner Group mercenaries is seen by many in Russia as a warning from the Kremlin to copycats not to interfere. Observers abroad noted especially that reaction to Yevgeniy Prigozhin’s rebellion on 23 June was first met with condemnation and then with two months of feigned restraint and a public effort not to appear bent on punishment.

August  2023 

The military took over another West African state. After coping with four major Islamist insurgencies for the past 16 years, Niger lost its elected President Mohamed Bazoum, 63 years, and government on 26 July when the presidential guard commander who had protected him since 2011 betrayed him and country. In the evening before 26 July 2023, the guard locked the presidential palace in Niamey with president, family, and staff inside. On the 26th, presidential palace and ministries were blocked off by military vehicles and persons approaching were sent away, according to Al Jazeera. 

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), United Nations (UN, European Union (EU), France, Russia, and the United States of America immediately called for the president’s release and ceding of power.  

On 27 July, the commander of Niger’s Defense and Security Forces (FDS) changed his position and supported the military coup d’état by the so-called National Council for the Safeguarding of the Country (Conseil national pour la sauvegarde de la patrie) (CNSP) and General Abdourahmane Tchiani, 62 years, who appointed himself the council’s President. On 28 July, he appeared on television and declared that “Niger needed to change course to avoid the gradual and inevitable demise.”

Later, newly found supporters of the president’s ouster marched in the streets, denounced France, the country’s main source of aid, waving Russian flags.  

Niger is a poor and fragile country, located between Burkina Faso and Mali, both headed by members of the military who overthrown their elected governments during the last three years. It is noteworthy that Russia’s Wagner Group PMC (GV) mercenaries is active in neighboring Mali since 2021 and may soon appear in Niger. The country is also the world’s seventh biggest producer of uranium, according to the World Nuclear Association (WNA), a radioactive metal in great demand by Russia and others.  

The Russian Wagner Group PMC (GV) of mercenaries has not disappeared. Nor has its head Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin who although having been investigated by Russian authorities for trying to mount a coup d’état, reappeared in Russia and even was in contact with President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. Those GV mutineers who moved to Belarus [June 2023, p. 11189] are now being used by the host’s president to threaten his neighbors, especially Poland where borders were placed under tighter surveillance to prevent the infiltration of undercover GV mercenaries.  

After decades of chilly relations between Greece and Tűrkiye and a minimum of direct exchanges, their leaders met on 12 June and agreed to resume talks in the coming months, reported Al Jazeera from Vilnius. The Greek prime minister and the Turkish president had met on the sidelines of the summit meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) where Turkey dropped its opposition to membership of  Sweden.

July 2023 

A planned coup d’état in Russia that soldiers-for-hire, mercenaries, launched in the last week of June, was stopped. Its key target, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, President of the Russian Federation since 2012, lost no time on 26 June in an Address to citizens of Russia

  • To declare that “decisions to neutralize the emerged threat were made instantly”;
  • Noting that the majority of Wagner Group “soldiers and commanders” are also Russian Patriots;
  • Stressing that “steps were taken to avoid spilling blood”;
  • To express gratitude to Wagner Group soldiers and commanders who chose not to engage in fratricidal bloodshed;
  • Offered the opportunity to continue service to Russia;
  • To keep his promise to those who want to go to Belarus; and
  • Expressed his gratitude to Alexander Lukashenko, President of Belarus.

By mid-June, probably some Russian generals and US intelligence had learned that Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner Group PMC (GV) of mercenaries supporting Russia’s attack on Ukraine and its conflicts in Africa and Syria, was planning armed action against the military. By 23 June, authorities had launched a criminal probe of him, and Russian generals accused Prigozhin of trying to mount a coup d’état on Putin. Prigozhin also accused the Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu of ordering a rocket attack on GV field camps in Ukraine.  

On 23 June, he used the Wagner Group to launch a rebellion against the Russian military leadership, again accusing the Defense Ministry of shelling Wagner soldiers. The Wagner Group captured the Russian city of Rostov-na-Donu and headed for Moscow and then stopped.

By 24 June, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko had brokered an agreement with Putin and Prigozhin and the rebellion was called off. Prigozhin agreed to move to Belarus and criminal charges against him for rebellion were dropped. Wagner mutineers would not be prosecuted if they agreed to either sign contracts with the Defense Ministry or move to Belarus.  

On 27 June, US President Joe Biden denied involvement in the revolt and Putin took more credit for preventing it. The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) stopped its criminal investigation but allies of Prigozhin might be punished.

Objectively, Putin’s image was altered by the mutiny, even if it was a failed attempt, noted The Week in Russia of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) on 30 June. “Wagner forces essentially took control of Rostov-on-Don, a city of more than 1 million, and had advanced to within 200 kilometers of Moscow when Prigozhin abruptly called off the ‘march for justice’.” Ms. Tatyana Stanovaya, senior fellow at the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center wrote “This mutiny was so shocking that the regime appeared to many as near to collapse, which significantly undermines Putin’s ability to secure control in the eyes of the political class. There is also the notion that an “alternative future” that might have unfolded had things gone another way might not be the kind that millions who hope for change in Russia would welcome.”

June 2023 

War is deepening the divide between autocracies and democracies among 29 nations in the region stretching from Central Europe to Central Asia is the warning raised by Freedom House of Washington DC. In its 25th edition of the annual Nations in Transit report it points clearly at the Russian unprovoked invasion of Ukraine as the further cause of overall decline in democratic governance for the region. For the 19th consecutive year, democratic governance in the Nations in Transit region suffered an overall decline. Democracy scores declined in 11 out of the 29 countries. Seven countries earned improvements, however, as civic activists and democratic leaders continued to strive for better governance across the diverse region.

May 2023  

Bipartisan efforts in the United States of America to protect institutions and support of democracy and correct shortcomings of the economy, social aid, and rights of women and minorities are constantly undercut by the white, racist, bigoted wing of the Republican Party, the US Congress, and a number of state legislatures. While the Administration is eager to improve infrastructure at home and support Ukraine against Russian aggression, the Republican wing in the House of Representatives is investigating alleged or perceived failures and violations by the president, and members of his family and of the Administration.

April 2023

Relations between China and the United States of America are unbalanced. While there is a strong incentive to remain peaceful when their leaders are continuing profitable economic dealings, both governments are also pursuing political aims that undercut the positive balance. There was a recent show of unity by China and Russia when their leaders met while Russia is at a war with Ukraine and China expressed support for the Kremlin. China’s leader and the ruling party are sticking to Xi Jinping’s vision to become the preeminent power in East Asia and to pursue aggressively becoming a major world power. The US is sanctioning some Chinese companies, pushing back against Chinese moves in Africa and Latin America, and strengthening not only strategic ties with India, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines but boosting Australian naval power and visibly supporting Taiwan as demonstrated by the island leader’s visit to Washington.

March 2023

During recent years, the president of Türkiye has perseveringly amassed power. Likewise, he has increasingly become more intolerant of dissent as well as any criticism of him which he is quick to take before a court, charging personal insult. The latest blow against democracy was delivered on 13 October when the Grand National Assembly in which his Justice and Development (AKP) party and allies passed a disinformation law by 344 of 600 votes. The president signed it into law on 18 October. It criminalises what the authorities call disinformation and spreading “fake news,” without clearly defining it. Journalists, social media users and others are subject to imprisonment up to three years if found guilty. By the end of January, international media have increasingly condemned the residential authoritarianism. Turkey remains  rated ‘not free’ by Freedom House of New York NY.

 February 2023

Good news at the start of 2023 was the quadrennial report on the 1987 Montreal Protocol that the Earth’s ozone layer, weakened by higher than normal levels of ozone-depleting chemicals from China in 2018, is expected to recover within the next four decades, according to the the Ozone Secretariat of the  United Nations (UN) Environment Program (UNEP) on 10 January. The report was prepared by scientists of a UN-backed panel.  

The traumatic election of a United States Speaker of the House of Representatives is casting an unfortunate shadow on the next two years of acrimonious and probably self-defeating politics. After 15 rounds of voting over our days, the Californian Congressman of the Republican Party was finally elected on 6 January, not before being forced to make numerous concessions to the party’s far-right blocks. Following immediately were appointments of bloc members to new investigative committees to look into alledged misconduct of the government and steps to resist raising the public debt limit, lowering spending on safety net programs, and lowering taxes on business and millionaires.

January 2023





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