Jan 15, 2021

Bobi Wine, the main challenger of incumbent Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in the election, said early on Friday that Thursday’s vote had seen “widespread fraud and violence” but the opposition leader remained positive as ballots are being counted under an internet blackout.

Uganda Elections 2021 Results: Bobi Wine vs Yoweri Museveni - Electoral Commission results show Museveni in early lead

“Despite the widespread fraud and violence experienced across the country earlier today, the picture still looks good. Thank you Uganda for turning up and voting in record numbers,” Wine tweeted shortly after midnight (21:00 GMT), managing to bypass the blockage.

The 38-year-old former pop star-turned-legislator did not give details about his accusations, which contradicted the government’s account that Thursday’s vote had been peaceful with no extensive cases of violence reported.

The Electoral Commission is expected to release the results within 48 hours.

The internet remained down for a third day as vote counting continued in the country. Results are expected by Saturday afternoon.

President Museveni is seeking a sixth term in office and Wine has been arrested multiple times during the campaigning, is his main competitor among 11 opposition candidates.

The election took place after one of the most violent campaigns in years, with harassment and arrests of the opposition leaders, attacks on the media and dozens of deaths.

The run-up to polling day was marred by a sustained crackdown on Museveni’s rivals and government critics and unprecedented attacks on the nation’s media and human rights defenders.

In November, at least 54 people were shot dead by security forces loyal to Museveni during protests against one of Wine’s numerous arrests.

The US, EU, UN and global rights and democracy groups have raised concerns about the integrity and transparency of the election.

Meanwhile, the African Union (AU), has sent monitors, along with an AU women’s group.

On Wednesday, the United States, a key aid donor to Uganda, announced it was cancelling a diplomatic observer mission after several of its staff were denied permission to monitor the election.

On Tuesday, Museveni announced the suspension of social media networks and messaging services like Instagram, Twitter and WhatsApp in response to Facebook closing accounts linked to government officials that the technology giant said were spreading misinformation.

 

Source : AL Jazeera

Uganda is going to conduct its first digital and mass media campaigns ahead of its 2021 general elections. This comes as the country contemplates holding a “scientific election” wherein social distancing guidelines will be observed.

On 16 June 2020, the Uganda Electoral Commission issued a press release banning public rallies for the 2021 political campaigns as part of the country’s COVID-19 containment measures. Campaigns will now be conducted on radio and television, in newspapers and on the internet. This caused an immediate protest especially among opposition-leaning political groups and civil society organisations.

The electoral commission said the official guidelines for the 2021 general election would be issued after consultation with relevant stakeholders. These guidelines will include how much space and time aspirants will be allocated on Uganda’s national broadcasting network.

This is a critical issue as candidates have been denied media space in the past. In 2011, opposition kingpin Kizza Besigye was denied paid advertisement space scheduled on the state-owned Uganda Broadcasting Corporation. He won a court case against the media house but the electoral commission is yet to pronounce on this incident.

Uganda’s electoral commission’s relationship with electioneering politicians has been problematic in the past. Many of them are highly distrustful of the body, which is hand-picked by the incumbent president.

President Yoweri Museveni is also on record accusing the electoral body of rigging his party out of votes in 2014. The electoral commission itself has exploited this instability by issuing inconclusive communications. The latest announcement on media campaigns is a case in point.

In the meantime, party candidates are picking nomination forms, and the ruling National Resistance Movement has conducted virtual and low scale physical campaigns and elections for its party organs nationwide. This is being done amid the traditional fanfare that accompanies campaigns albeit in smaller groups. They are taking the opportunity to attract the attention of television cameras and radio stations.

Uganda’s previous general elections have often been disputed by the losing opposition. The 2021 general elections are poised to fuel these traditional grievances even as the country’s election commission bans open air campaigns owing to COVID-19 restrictions.

The ruling party has unrestricted access to the media. It is also assured of an uninterrupted internal electoral process. This is not the case for the opposition, which is often blocked and dispersed by police.

The electoral commission as umpire is unresponsive to the methods and activities of the police, and some media policies that significantly affect the visibility of the candidates among the electorate.

Attempts therefore at Uganda’s scientific elections, unless judiciously regulated, will only propagate the usual refrain of electoral malpractices.

New candidates

New aspirants will have to make do with dramatics to get their message to the people. Bobi Wine has adopted South African opposition politician Julius Malema’s signature red beret and Nelson Mandela’s raised fist to situate himself in the minds of voters. He has taken advantage of radio interviews and a strong online presence to push his campaign forward.

Robert ‘Bobi Wine’ Kyagulanyi. Luke Dray/Getty Images

He makes strategic announcements of his scheduled television and radio appearances, which are often cancelled at the last minute by media houses or denied outright by the police, as a means to mobilise his passionate youthful supporters. They have often taken to the streets to demonstrate their support and outrage at his mistreatment.

The Uganda police predictably reacts with tear gas and strong-arm tactics, which typically results in media coverage for Bobi Wine’s campaign. The politician has on occasion sued the police and his cases have been well covered by the press.

Savvy and youthful candidates like Bobi Wine then make use of social media to amplify their voices by posting clips of these incidents on the internet, where their supporters then access them on mobile phones. The battle lines are hence defined.

This strategy worked well in pre-COVID-19 times, but with the advent of social distancing measures in Uganda, these candidates will need to restrategise. The directive to conduct purely media campaigns will mean that they will not have the opportunity to leverage physical campaigns on various media platforms.

Museveni’s head start

There is much debate on the feasibility of digital campaigns and scientific elections. President Museveni continues to express his determination to keep the country socially contained amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

He is yet to lift an eight and a half hour nightly curfew imposed on the country since May. Public transport is tightly regulated. The number of passengers per private commuter van has been halved. Commuters must wash their hands and wear masks. The president also took to the airwaves wondering why people would leave their homes to die.

Meanwhile, he has had a head start travelling the country opening development projects and handing out start-up capital.

He is often captured keeping the required social distance and wearing a mask as he waves at crowds. His excursions are covered by the presidential press unit which broadcasts on Uganda Broadcasting Corporation.

These images are then distributed to other networks such as The New Vision multimedia network. Most government ministers have their own press coverage which mimic the presidential press unit with reportage of their official and unofficial activities mainly on the national broadcaster.

Problem with media campaigns

There is also the matter of the electorate’s capacity to access radio, television and newspaper content. The 2014 census showed that one million homesteads had television sets and 3.4 million had radio sets. This is against a voting population of about 17 million.

As for the online capacity of Uganda’s electorate, a report reveals that Uganda’s internet penetration is about 42% with up to 19 million Ugandans now connected to the internet out of a total estimated population of 46 million people.

The percentage of Ugandans with access to legacy and new media is a drop in the bucket compared to the entire population, and those who are registered to vote.

Moreover, Uganda’s social media platforms are rife with disinformation and defamation, which affects all Ugandans, including the country’s most powerful. The president himself has made use of the internet by posting his exercise regime. His detractors have responded by accusing the president of spreading propaganda about his invincibility.

But Museveni is not the only leader who is using the internet to reach his supporters. Uganda’s apolitical cultural leaders are also active in the digital space, where they have been seen to deny social media information that casts them in a bad light.

This is significant because cultural leaders hold sway among Uganda’s rural voters, who are the majority.

Some political pundits have posited that the directive to campaign on media and digital platforms in a country which is fumbling technologically is a trojan horse filled with electoral malpractices. It remains to be seen whether this is yet another of Uganda’s experiments in statecraft, or if it is simply election crisis management.The Conversation

 

Geoffrey Ssenoga, Lecturer of Mass Communications, Uganda Christian University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

For months, Ugandans have witnessed a vicious presidential election campaign without precedent. While the incumbent, Yoweri Museveni, has enjoyed free rein on the campaign trail, his youthful main opponent Robert Kyagulanyi and his supporters have faced numerous obstacles – and physical assault.

The result is a pervasive sense of political crisis in the run-up to the January 14 vote.

But in this crisis is the potential for release. Ordinary Ugandans are pouring their social and political grievances onto social media platforms, spawning debates around accountability and governance. They have taken to recording events they find newsworthy and posting them directly to ordinary people’s WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter accounts. In the process, they are sidestepping traditional channels – mainly radio, television and newspapers – along with their bureaucratic and hierachical procedures of news gathering.

The traditional media landscape has been dominated by Vision Group, in which the state owns the majority stake. The group owns the biggest circulating newspaper,The New Vision, a number of local regional newspapers and TV stations. Uganda Broadcasting Corporation, a statutory agency, has the widest TV and radio reach over the country, broadcasting in English and the major local languages as well as Kiswahili. The other main players are private media houses with TV and radio outlets and newspapers. But all are kept on a short leash through legislation and commercial imperatives in a market where the government is the chief source of advertising.

The migration to social media has been driven by two key factors. The first is the wave of excitement in favour of Kyagulanyi, better known by his stage name Bobi Wine, and his bid for the presidency. The recent riots and their spread across the country only provide a glimpse into the popular interest in him. Traffic on social media is an indication of his appeal.

The second driver has been the fact that Uganda has a very youthful voting age population. The country has the second youngest population on the continent. According to the World Population Review, just 2% of Ugandans are 65 or older.

These young Ugandans have turned to their favourite tool and pastime: social media. The easy access to information on smartphones has emboldened them to speak out without fear.

In addition, journalists and prominent people in politics have set up Facebook pages and YouTube channels. They have taken to posting realtime events and activities of the politicians and their families. These clips range from hard news to human interest stories as well as outright propaganda and lies which are quickly debunked by the adversary.

The government tried to curb the use of social media, such as enacting a law on the misuse and abuse of technology. But it does not have the capacity to track all offenders, let alone to prove its case in court. Also, its attempts to limit access by levying social media tax have largely been sidestepped by the widespread use of virtual private networks.

Never has a contest in Uganda’s political history been so furiously played out in the media space as the 2021 national elections. This trend is now irreversible. This may be the one gain for Ugandan democracy from the bruising poll. And it’s a gain unlikely to be dented by Uganda’s unprecedented ban on all social media platforms and messaging apps 48 hours before the presidential vote.

History

During Amin’s era in the 1970s balanced reporting was unheard of. The government newspaper, Voice of Uganda, carried leading headlines daily featuring Amin throughout its lifetime and the government radio and TV stations were Amin’s mouthpieces. It was suicidal to carry dissenting voices.

When the National Resistance Movement came to power in 1986 through an armed insurrection, it set up its own media presence. This media extolled the new leadership and the movement through which it captured power. “When we captured power” became the ubiquitous preamble of many government officials’ speeches. It was embraced positively in TV and radio documentary scripts and newspaper articles.

The image of a new regime riding on the wrongs of past leaders to capture power by armed insurrection in the interests of the people is now a distant memory. Fast forward to 2021 and six election cycles later, Ugandans in general and journalists in particular are feeling the full force of that power.

Journalists covering the current campaign have endured police assault, access restrictions and regulatory sanctions such as having to register to be accredited. There is ample evidence of brutality.

COVID-19 restrictions have also been used as a smokescreen to control the media and the movement of journalists.

Restrictions have been placed on media access for opposition candidates. Such candidates have reported incidents of being denied access to upcountry broadcast outlets by government authorities and owners fearing repercussions. Opposition candidates also lament restrictions to the mainstream radio and television such as UBC’s network.

Amid all these hurdles, Museveni has continued to appear daily on media outlets. His daily schedule includes live TV appearances commissioning government development projects such as roads, hospitals, markets, bridges and dams.

Social media

There are also downsides to the spike in social media use. One is that conspiracy theories abound on the various platforms. But, despite the challenges posed by the unprofessionalism of some citizen journalism on social media, the public has woken up to the power of breaking news and whistleblowing that speaks directly to power.

There have been some notable instances where social media has come into its own in holding those in authority accountable. One example was the effective use of live streaming of the deadly political riots in which at least 45 were killed in November 2020. This proved to be the only source of direct information after security services cut the flow of information by seizing journalists on the scene and prevailing on media houses not to broadcast the violent scenes.

How the role of social media will affect the outcome of the poll remains an open question. Demographics will play a large role. Museveni still has a hold on rural and elderly voters while Kyagulanyi seems to pull the urban youth.

Above all, much depends on whether it’s a free and fair poll. Here, Kyagulanyi can only hope that the electoral commission ensures a level playing field.The Conversation

 

Geoffrey Ssenoga, Lecturer of Mass Communications, Uganda Christian University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Jan 13, 2021

Rwanda is a major destination for foreigners travelling in the East African region.

With a tourism industry that is developing day by day, an emerging conference industry; and an investment atmosphere characterized by increased ease of doing business, many foreign travellers have been, in the past years getting increasingly interested in coming to visit.

However, with the emergence of the pandemic, it is not business as usual.

Government has put in place a number of measures to prevent the spread of the virus and this has affected travel to and from the country.

Here are seven things that you should know about traveling to Rwanda during this time of the pandemic:

1. Filling a passenger locator form before traveling

Travellers arriving in Rwanda must complete a passenger locator form and upload a negative Covid-19 test certificate on www.rbc.gov.rw –the official website of Rwanda Biomedical Centre—prior to their arrival.

2. A negative RT-PCR test is mandatory upon arrival

All travellers arriving in Rwanda must have a negative Covid-19 certificate. The only accepted test is a SARS-CoV 2 Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) performed within 120 hours of departure. This means that travellers must be tested and get results within 5 days of their flight. Other tests, such as Rapid Diagnostics Test (RDTs) are not accepted.

3. All travellers are tested upon arrival. A test costs $60

After jetting in, it is mandatory for travellers to get tested again at the Kigali International Airport. The Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC) in partnership with the airport established a Covid-19 testing within the airport.

The test done here is a Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR), and a traveller has to pay $60 for it. This amount is prepaid using online means (rbc.gov.rw) before someone travels to Rwanda.

4. Waiting for results at transit hotels. Government negotiated special prices with the hotels ranging from $30 to $450

After testing at the airport, the travellers proceed to designated transit hotels where they have to wait for about 24 hours to get their results. A list of these hotels is available on rbc.gov.rw.

The Government of Rwanda negotiated special rates for the 24-hour waiting period at the hotels. The prices range from as low as $30 to $450.

5. Travellers whose tests turn out positive undergo treatment at their own cost

If the results of a person visiting the country return negative, they are allowed to continue with the business that brought them. But if the result is positive for (even if asymptomatic), they will be treated as indicated in the National Covid-19 Management Guidelines until they have fully recovered, at their own cost.

Rwanda Biomedical Centre encourages all travellers to have international travel insurance.

6. Screening at the borders for those who use land transport

Travellers from neighbouring countries traveling to Rwanda are taken to transit to designated transit hotels from where they are tested for Covid-19. A test costs $60.

7. Negative Covid-19 results required before departure, for all

All travellers departing from Rwanda must test negative for Covid-19. The only accepted test is a SARS-CoV 2 Real Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) performed within 120 hours before departure. Other tests, such as Rapid Diagnostics Test (RDTs), are not accepted.

RBC encourages travellers to book and pay for their tests at least 2 days prior to departure through the online platform available at rbc.gov.rw

 

Read More: newtimesrwanda

For two days in November 2020, Uganda witnessed some of the most violent riots in a decade. The riots were triggered by the arrest of opposition presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, who is challenging the incumbent Yoweri Museveni in the February 14 2021 election.

Authorities alleged that Kyagulanyi, better known as Bobi Wine, had consistently disregarded COVID-19 related election campaign guidelines limiting gatherings to no more than 200 people.

In the violence that ensued, contingents of heavily armed police and the army responded with tear gas and live ammunition, resulting in the death of at least 45 people. Eleven members of the security forces were also reportedly injured during the riots.

The lethal use of force to break up a riot provoked national and international condemnation. It also raised questions around the standard applied by Uganda’s security forces in quelling this and similarly deadly riots in the past.

The blanket and indiscriminate use of firearms and live ammunition led directly to the carnage witnessed in only two days. This violent response of police and army units reinforces my view that Uganda must overhaul its national legal framework on the use of force and firearms during law enforcement. The current framework contains highly permissive and ambiguous standards which enable law enforcement actors to use excessive force with no clear lines of accountability.

The framework doesn’t address Uganda’s long-standing reliance on the army for strictly law enforcement tasks. Army officers deployed in this way are obliged to obey the orders of their superior working in collaboration with the officer in charge of the civil power. This is highly unlikely given the record of past brutally executed joint law enforcement tasks.

It’s now time that the country enacted laws in keeping with international standards, such as the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms. It needs to redefine the relationship between police and military during law enforcement.

Use of force and firearms

The right to life is protected under Uganda’s constitution. This protection was recently buttressed by Uganda’s Constitutional Court, which declared as unconstitutional the wide latitude given to law enforcers under Uganda’s Police Act.

The act previously empowered police to do “all things necessary” when dispersing unlawful assemblies. It granted immunity for any death or injury caused in the process, while condoning police brutality. The Police Act has not yet been amended to reflect the Constitutional Court’s ruling.

According to UN principles on the use of force and firearms, lethal use of firearms must be restricted to instances of an imminent threat of death or serious injury. Moreover, intentional use of lethal force even in such cases should only be when strictly unavoidable and in order to protect life. These principles require that law enforcement operations must be carefully planned to avoid use of force or use it as a last resort and employ the least harmful means necessary, to minimise damage and risk to bystanders and preserve human life.

But Uganda’s security minister, General Elly Tumwine – a top army general – has asserted that security forces have a right to shoot and kill in a situation where an offender displays a “certain level of violence”. He did not set out where the boundaries lie.

There have been dissenting voices, even among top administrators in Uganda. For example, the Police Director of Operations went on record with an apology and admission of error. He acknowledged that the use of live bullets to disperse crowds was unlawful and that police should have used tear gas instead.

Historical army clout

The right to life is the most relevant right during law enforcement operations and must not be arbitrarily deprived. JR Thackrah, a scholar of joint police and military operations in counter terrorism, has noted that,

“An army may kill in the execution of its normal functions but the function of the police is fulfilled by apprehending and bringing to account.”

Unfortunately, in Uganda’s context, this distinction is not always apparent. This poses challenges for the application of human rights standards during joint police and military law enforcement operations.

Under Uganda’s constitution and the Uganda People’s Defence Forces Act, the army can be called upon to “assist the civilian authority” in an emergency. Emergencies include a riot or a disturbance of the peace which the authorities can’t bring under control. Past inquiries into joint undertakings suggest domination and intimidation of the Uganda Police by the army. The army also reportedly disregards civilian laws and procedures.

This ultimately undermines the police leadership in its law enforcement role. Cumulatively, it undermines the distinction between use of force standards and protocols that must be applied during peacetime versus during war time.

The way forward

Under Uganda’s constitution the national army is subordinate to civilian authority. In practice, however, this isn’t the case. When the military is deployed during peacetime law enforcement operations, for instance, there is no statutory requirement that the army receives appropriate equipment and applies standards of training and doctrine which are in line with human rights standards fit for peacetime contexts.

By comparison, in some jurisdictions like South Africa, military personnel deployed for law enforcement tasks in co-operation with the police must by law undergo appropriate training. They are also given equipment suitable for this role. This serves to re-orient them from enemy combat roles to peacetime roles.

In such contexts they are also explicitly bound by the same limits on the use of force as the South African police.

Uganda’s Defence Forces Act could be amended to ensure such a requirement. This oversight could also ensure that mechanisms are in place to protect and maintain the police’s lead role during joint law enforcement operations.

Along with this, the police should receive more training and equipment including protective equipment in order to facilitate de-escalated and graduated use of force. Whereas the police have recently developed a handbook on the use of force and firearms, this is not enough. The guidelines must be debated and incorporated in a comprehensive enforceable legal statute.The Conversation

 

Sylvie Namwase, Post Doctorate Researcher under the DANIDA funded project on militarisation, sustainable growth and peace in Uganda., University of Copenhagen

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Jan 11, 2021

Niger’s ruling party candidate Mohamed Bazoum will face former President Mahamane Ousmane in a presidential election runoff in February, according to provisional results announced by the electoral commission last week.

Bazoum, 60, led the first round with 39.33 percent of the vote, falling short of the 50 percent plus one needed to win the first round.

Ousmane received 17 percent of the votes cast, the commission said.

Former prime ministers Seini Oumarou and Albade Abouba respectively came third and fourth with 8.95 percent and 7.07 percent of the ballots.

The second round is expected to be held on February 21 after the results of the first round have been validated by the constitutional court, which will hear any appeals.

Bazoum, who has been both interior and foreign minister, campaigned on promises of improved security and education and had hoped to clinch victory in the first round.

Bazoum’s Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS) is also leading in the legislative vote held at the same time with 80 of the 165 seats and five diaspora seats remaining to be decided.

Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou is stepping down after two five-year terms, which is expected to lead to the West African country’s first transfer of power between two democratically elected presidents.

Almost 7.5 million people cast their votes on Sunday to choose a successor to Issoufou, who in a New Year radio address hailed the election as “a new, successful page in our country’s democratic history”.

Insecurity overshadowed the campaigning, with Niger battered by armed groups on its southwestern border with Mali as well as its southeastern frontier with Nigeria.

Five years of violence in the former French colony have cost hundreds of lives with many more displaced. Last month, 27 people died in an attack claimed by Boko Haram.

But security is not the only concern for the people in Niger, a country of 23 million people.

The country’s economy has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic with a fall in the price of its top export uranium.

It has also suffered due to the closure of the border with Nigeria, a key gateway for the import of essential goods.

Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris, reporting from Niger’s capital city Niamey, said that discussions are now ongoing between the parties over possible coalitions.

“Most of the democratically elected governments in Niger have been coalitions,” he said.

Idris said the two presidential candidates are also courting support in the final round.

“The question is, will the voters come out? Already we’ve seen more than 30 percent of voters not turning out for this election,” Idris said.

 

Credit: AL JAZEERA

Did the United States just have a coup attempt?

Supporters of President Donald Trump, following his encouragement, stormed the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, disrupting the certification of Joe Biden’s election victory. Waving Trump banners, hundreds of people broke through barricades and smashed windows to enter the building where Congress convenes. One rioter died and several police officers were hospitalized in the clash. Congress went on lockdown.

While violent and shocking, what happened on Jan. 6 wasn’t a coup.

This Trumpist insurrection was election violence, much like the election violence that plagues many fragile democracies.

What is a coup?

While coups do not have a single definition, researchers who study them – like ourselves – agree on the key attributes of what academics call a “coup event.”

Coup experts Jonathan Powell and Clayton Thyne define a coup d’etat as “an overt attempt by the military or other elites within the state apparatus to unseat the sitting head of state using unconstitutional means.”

Essentially, three parameters are used to judge whether an insurrection is a coup event:

1) Are the perpetrators agents of the state, such as military officials or rogue governmental officials?

2) Is the target of the insurrection the chief executive of the government?

3) Do the plotters use illegal and unconstitutional methods to seize executive power?

Coups and coup attempts

A successful coup occurred in Egypt on July 3, 2013, when army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi forcefully removed the country’s unpopular president, Mohamed Morsi. Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected leader, had recently overseen the writing of a new constitution. Al-Sisi suspended that, too. This qualifies as a coup because al-Sisi seized power illegally and introduced his own rule of law in the ashes of the elected government.

Civilians and soldiers in fatigues holding weapons cheer on a balcony, at night
Egyptian protesters celebrate the military overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi along with officers of the Egyptian Republican Guard, July 3, 2013, in Cairo. Ed Giles/Getty Images

Coups don’t always succeed in overthrowing the government.

In 2016, members of the Turkish military attempted to remove Turkey’s strongman president, Reçep Erdogan, from power. Soldiers seized key areas in Ankara, the capital, and Istanbul, including the Bosphorus Bridge and two airports. But the coup lacked coordination and widespread support, and it failed quickly after President Erdogan called on his supporters to confront the plotters. Erdogan remains in power today.

What happened at the US Capitol?

The uprising at the Capitol building does not meet all three criteria of a coup.

Trump’s rioting supporters targeted a branch of executive authority – Congress – and they did so illegally, through trespassing and property destruction. Categories #2 and #3, check.

As for category #1, the rioters appeared to be civilians operating of their own volition, not state actors. President Trump did incite his followers to march on the Capitol building less than an hour before the crowd invaded the grounds, insisting the election had been stolen and saying “We will not take it anymore.” This comes after months of spreading unfounded electoral lies and conspiracies that created a perception of government malfeasance in the mind of many Trump supporters.

Whether the president’s motivation in inflaming the anger of his supporters was to assault Congress is not clear, and he tepidly told them to go home as the violence escalated. For now it seems the riot in Washington, D.C., was enacted without the approval, aid or active leadership of government actors like the military, police or sympathetic GOP officials.

A Congress staffer holds his hands up while Capitol Police SWAT team clears an office
SWAT police try to clear the Capitol building of pro-Trump rioters, Jan. 6, 2021. Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

American political elites are hardly blameless, though.

By spreading conspiracy theories about election fraud, numerous Republican senators, including Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, created the conditions for political violence in the United States, and specifically electoral-related violence.

Academics have documented that contentious political rhetoric fuels the risk of election-related violence. Elections are high-stakes; they represent a transfer of political power. When government officials demean and discredit democratic institutions as a simmering political conflict is underway, contested elections can trigger political violence and mob rule.

So what did happen?

The shocking events of Jan. 6 were political violence of the sort that too often mars elections in young or unstable democracies.

Bangladeshi elections suffer from perennial mob violence and political insurrections due to years of government violence and opposition anger. Its 2015 and 2018 elections looked more like war zones than democratic transitions.

In Cameroon, armed dissidents perpetrated violence in the 2020 election, targeting government buildings, opposition figures and innocent bystanders alike. Their aim was to delegitimize the vote in response to sectarian violence and government overreach.

The United States’ electoral violence differs in cause and context from that seen in Bangladesh and Cameroon, but the action was similar. The U.S. didn’t have a coup, but this Trump-encouraged insurrection is likely to send the country down a politically and socially turbulent road.

 

[The Conversation’s Politics + Society editors pick need-to-know stories. Sign up for Politics Weekly.]The Conversation

Clayton Besaw, Research Affiliate and Senior Analyst, University of Central Florida and Matthew Frank, Master's student, International Security, University of Denver

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Jan 06, 2021

Oil prices rose on Wednesday to their highest since February 2020 after Saudi Arabia agreed to reduce output more than expected in a meeting with allied producers, while industry figures showed U.S. crude stockpiles were down last week.

Brent crude rose as much as 0.9% to $54.09 a barrel, the highest since Feb. 26, 2020. It was at $53.82 a barrel at 0757 GMT after jumping 4.9% on Tuesday.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures climbed as much as 0.6% to $50.24 a barrel, also the highest since Feb. 26, before slipping to $49.96. The contract on Tuesday closed up 4.6%.

Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter, agreed on Tuesday to make additional, voluntary oil output cuts of 1 million barrels per day (bpd) in February and March, after a meeting with the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other major producers that form the group known as OPEC+.

The reductions agreed by Saudi Arabia were included in a deal to persuade other producers in the OPEC+ group to hold output steady.

With coronavirus infections spreading rapidly in many parts of the world producers are trying to support prices as demand takes a hit from new lockdowns being put in place.

"Despite this bullish supply agreement, we believe Saudi's decision likely reflects signs of weakening demand as lockdowns return," analysts from Goldman Sachs said in a note, although the investment bank maintained its year-end 2021 forecast for Brent of $65 a barrel.

OPEC member Iran's seizure of a South Korean tanker in the Gulf on Monday also continued to support prices. Tehran denied it was holding the ship and its crew hostage after seizing the tanker while pushing for Seoul to release $7 billion of funds frozen under U.S. sanctions.

Meanwhile U.S. crude oil inventories dropped by 1.7 million barrels in the week to Jan. 1 to 491.3 million barrels, data from industry group the American Petroleum Institute showed late on Tuesday. That exceed analysts' expectations in a Reuters poll for a decline of 1.3 million barrels.

Jan 05, 2021

Alibaba founder Jack Ma's absence from public view in the past two months, including missing the final episode of a TV show on which he was to appear as a judge, has fueled social media speculation over his whereabouts amid a Chinese regulatory clampdown on his sprawling business empire.

China's highest-profile entrepreneur has not appeared in a public setting since a late October forum in Shanghai where he blasted China's regulatory system in a speech that put him on a collision course with officials, resulting in the suspension of a $37 billion IPO of Alibaba's Ant Group fintech arm.

The Financial Times reported on Friday that Ma was replaced as a judge in the final episode in November of a game show for entrepreneurs called Africa's Business Heroes.

An Alibaba spokeswoman told Reuters on Monday that the change was due to a scheduling conflict, declining further comment.

While news coverage of Ma's absence from public view triggered speculation on Twitter, which is blocked in China, it was not a significant trending topic on social media in mainland China, where sensitive topics are subject to censorship.

Chinese regulators have zeroed in on Ma's businesses since his October speech including launching an antitrust probe into Alibaba and ordering Ant to shake up its lending and other consumer finance businesses including the creation of a separate holding company to meet capital requirements.

"I think he's been told to lay low," said Duncan Clark, chairman of Beijing-based tech consultancy BDA China. "This is a pretty unique situation, more linked to the sheer scale of Ant and the sensitivities over financial regulation," he said.

Alibaba's Hong Kong-listed shares fell 2.15% on Monday.

 

(Reuters)

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