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Curated top stories
- The U.S. vetoed a draft UN Security Council resolution rejecting President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The remaining 14 council members voted in favor of the Egyptian-drafted resolution that asked Trump’s decision be withdrawn. “What we witnessed here in the Security Council is an insult. It won’t be forgotten,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said. Trump changed U.S. policy this month when he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
- Cyril Ramaphosa has been selected as the leader of the African National Congress (ANC), the largest political party in South Africa. Running on an anti-corruption platform, Ramaphosa beat Dlamini-Zuma, the ex-wife of current President Jacob Zuma. Some 5,000 delegates casted their vote to decide who stands for the presidency in 2019. A result was expected on Sunday but was delayed due to allegations of voter fraud, according to the BBC, in an election fraught with in-fighting.
- Ramaphosa will need to stand in a general election against other political parties in 2019. BBC reports that Ramaphosa will likely recall Jacob Zuma as the party leader before he formally assumes office.
- The Guardian reports that Ramaphosa has the support of the business community while Dlamini-Zuma ran on a populist platform promising radical economic reforms.
- The Washington Post reports that Jacob Zuma said he is prepared to bow out gracefully as the leader of ANC.
- Zuma faces allegations of excess business influence inside his government. South Africa’s High Court ruled that Zuma must set up a judicial inquiry within 30 days after the release of a report, ‘State of Capture,’ which focused on Zuma’s powerful friends, Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta. The report alleges the Guptas have influenced the appointment of cabinet positions and the running of government. This Businessweek article entitled ‘The brothers who bought South Africa,’ outlines the Gupta’s strained relationship with the country. Zuma has defended his government to Africa News Network 7. He described the phrase “state capture,” which many in the opposition have used to describe the president’s dealings with business, as a word used by media organizations to peddle propaganda. According to South African news site, News24, the High Court judgment said that: “The president had no justifiable basis to simply ignore the impact of this corruption on the South African public.”
- At least three people are dead and 100 injured after a train derailed in Washington state. The Amtrak train was on its first run of a faster route from Seattle to Portland, Oregon. However, it derailed, which sent passenger cars over a bridge and onto a major highway.
- Myanmar’s civilian president has given the green light for police to advance with the case against two Reuters journalists accused of violating the colonial-era Official Secrets Act (1923), Reuters quotes a senior Myanmarese government spokesperson as saying. The 1923 Official Secrets Act carries a maximum penalty of up to 14 years in prison. Journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo had been covering the Rohingya humanitarian crisis when they were arrested on December 12. Last week, Myanmar’s Ministry of Information released a picture of the two in handcuffs, saying they had “illegally acquired information with the intention to share it with foreign media”. Several governments, including the U.S. and the UK, human rights and journalism groups have said the arrests were an attack on press freedom and called for the journalists’ release (see more detail about the Official Secrets Act below).
- Austria’s president approved a coalition deal that will make it the only country in Western Europe with a far-right party in government. The Conservative Sebastian Kurz, who is 31, will be chancellor and says that his government will not seek to leave the European Union, which was an election promise made by his new coalition partners, the anti-immigration Freedom Party (FPO). Kurz’s party, the OVP will hold eight ministries, as opposed to the FPO’s six. (Collaborate on WikiTribune‘s coverage of this story by contributing here.)
- Former Chile president Sebastian Pinera handily defeated his opponent in a vote that returns the conservative 68-year-old billionaire to office on promises to jump-start the economy. Pinera won nearly 55 percent of the vote to 45 percent for Alejandro Guillier, a center-left senator and former TV anchor who had the backing of current president Michelle Bachelet. Pinera, who governed previously from 2010 to 2014, will be sworn in on March 11.
- An electoral tribunal in Honduras returned President Juan Orlando Hernandez to office three weeks after the presidential election, declaring the conservative had won the tight contest against Salvador Nasralla, a TV personality who quickly raised allegations of vote-rigging and widespread fraud. The tribunal said Hernandez won by 1.53 percent of vote, a decision Nasralla, who led significantly in early returns, decried as a “desperate move.” Weeks of unrest followed the November 26 election and more than 17 people died in protests.
- Supporters of Ukraine opposition politician Mikheil Saakashvili clashed with police in the capital Kiev during a demonstration calling for the impeachment of President Petro Poroshenko. Police used tear gas on Sunday to prevent the supporters from forcing their way into Kiev’s October Palace. Saakashvili, a former President of Georgia, has become the unlikely face of the Ukrainian protest movement (The Telegraph) when he moved to the country after an uprising. He served as a regional governor in 2015-16 before falling out with Poroshenko. This piece from Foreign Policy magazine outlines why caution is needed when considering the rise of Saakashvili in Ukraine, who promised to stamp out corruption in the country. According to Radio Free Europe, which live blogged the protest, Ukraine’s prosecutor-general said Saakashvili will likely be extradited to Georgia, where he is wanted on charges linked to when he was that country’s president.
What we’re reading
- Two Reuters reporters, who were arrested in Myanmar, are being held under a 1923 law that dates back to a time when the country was a province of British India. Reporters Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, were arrested after the government alleged they breached the country’s Official Secrets Act. They had worked on stories about a military crackdown in Rakhine state, from which more than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims fled to Bangladesh since late August. Secretary general of the International Commission of Jurists, Sam Zarifi, said the law can ensnare working journalists “at any time.” The two reporters were arrested on December 12 after they were invited to meet police officers for dinner in Yangon, Myanmar’s capital. The Ministry of Information said they had “illegally acquired information with the intention to share it with foreign media.” The Official Secrets Act dates back to 1923, when Myanmar, then known as Burma, was a province of British India. The United Service Institution of India, a New Delhi-based think tank called it “one of the most draconian laws still in force in India … that has resulted in grave miscarriages that have blotted the record books of judiciary and sullied our reputation among democratic nations.” Local news site, The Irawaddy, said in an editorial entitled ‘The crackdown on the media must stop’ that “it is chilling to see that MOI has suddenly brought us back to the olden days of a repressive regime.”
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