Tensions soared in Senegal ahead of the Feb. 26 elections as security forces clashed with protestors. Opposition leader Youssou N’Dour, the singer, was injured during a political rally. At least six protestors have reportedly died over the past month. Nigerian ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo met with the government and opposition leaders in an effort to mediate the political standoff.
President Amadou Toumani Toure of Mali said that presidential elections will be held on time in April despite a heavily-armed Tuareg uprising taking place in the north of the country.
The International Criminal Court announced it will investigate possible war crimes committed in Cote d’Ivoire as far back as 2002, after Laurent Gbagbo became president. The court was previously only looking at crimes committed in the violence that followed the 2010 election when Gbagbo, currently in jail in The Hague, refused to step down.
In Burma, the largest strike since 1938 is testing the limits of the new law allowing labor unions. China’s leaders urged the Burmese government to reinforce its control over the two countries’ turbulent border.
Experts warned of potential security risks in the lead-up to Timor-Leste’s general elections in March.
The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva is expected to call on the Sri Lankan government next week to report its progress on investigating possible war crimes committed at the end of the civil war in 2009. The UN also wants to see an accounting of reconciliation measures taken by the authorities.
Amid the continuing political crisis in the Maldives, the Commonwealth urged government and opposition to start an immediate dialogue leading toward early elections at the end of 2012.
The Supreme Court in Brazil announced that it is bringing charges against Senator Joao Ribeiro, who is accused of holding 30 workers in conditions approaching slavery on his ranch in the Amazon jungle.
In Bolivia, members of disabled groups protesting cuts in state subsidies clashed with police.
A Colombian journalist was forced to leave the country after receiving death threats. And a judge in Ecuador fled her homeland amid the continuing controversy surrounding a libel suit against a leading newspaper critical of President Rafael Correa. (The photo above shows employees of the El Universo paper demonstrating against the government.)
The president of the breakaway Georgian enclave of Abkhazia survived an assassination attempt as Russia was seen as struggling to maintain stability there and in South Ossetia. Meanwhile, Georgia has started a campaign to lure in South African farmers who feel threatened in their country in an effort to revive Georgia’s agriculture.
In Moscow, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin exuded patriotism and nationalism at a well-organized electoral rally that tens of thousands of people in advance of the March 4 presidential election.
Middle East and North Africa
Hearings in the trial of Egypt’s former president Hosni Mubarak and his interior minister ended Wednesday. The final verdict is to be presented on television on June 2. While the date of the presidential election date has yet to be set, the supreme court committee overseeing the vote announced that it will open the nomination process for candidates on March 10. Meanwhile, Egypt’s finance minister said that the government has finally accepted a $3.2 billion loan form the IMF – a move criticized by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party. One commentator argued Egypt should look to Ukraine’s institutional reform. Also, read here for insight into Egypt’s judiciary.
The people of Misrata, Libya’s third-largest city, voted to elect their city council in what was the first large-scale election to be held in Libya. Meanwhile, there were reports of more than 100 killed in tribal violence in Libya’s southern town of Kufra, bordering Chad and Sudan.
Despite violence and scattered calls for a boycott, Yemenis appear to have ended Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 33 years of rule by participating in a referendum meant to transfer power to Vice President Abed Rabu Mansour Hadi. Hadi now faces the difficult job of leading his country’s transition over the next two years through to parliamentary and presidential elections.
The Syrian regime continued its bloody crackdown, including the killing and injuring of Syrian and foreign journalists. A UN report accused Syrian security forces of gross and systematic human rights violations. The International Committee of the Red Cross tried to negotiate a two-hour ceasefire to bring urgent humanitarian aid to civilians. Representatives from some 70 nations attended the "Friends of Syria" conference in Tunis to discuss action against the Damascus government and possible assistance to the country’s embattled population. Russia declined the invitation.
This week’s recommended reads:
A freelance journalist living in Saudi Arabia offers a skeptical look at that country’s attempts to deflect demands for social change.
A New York Times correspondent in Khartoum explains how the 1964 October Revolution in Sudan presaged the current upheaval in the Middle East. A writer at The New Yorker profiles those who would resist Vladimir Putin’s bid for re-election as Russia’s president.
Finally, a commentator in Argentina, recalling his own country’s financial trials a decade ago, urges Greeks to consider a novel solution: "Default Now!"
— Chloé de Préneuf