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THE INTERNATIONAL OBSERVER online
Our 42nd year of publishing The International Observer online
VIEWING THE WORLD
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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. .
.Turkey remains rated ‘not free’ by Freedom House of New York NY.
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
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.
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