Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso announced they are withdrawing from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Jan. 28, issuing a joint statement saying they had taken a "sovereign decision" to abandon the regional bloc of which they were founding members in 1975. The three countries accused the bloc of failing to support their fight against "terrorism and insecurity," and imposing "llegal, illegitimate, inhumane and irresponsible sanctions." The statement also charged that ECOWAS has "drifted from the ideals of its founding fathers and the spirit of Pan-Africanism," and is now "under the influence of foreign powers." (BBC News, Al Jazeera) This appears to be largely a veiled reference to France, with which all three countries have reduced or severed ties, although de facto bloc leader Nigeria is closer to the Anglo-American camp.
The number of asylum seekers and migrants crossing the Mediterranean to reach Italy has surged this year, according to EU officials. More than 56,000 people have made the journey–almost double the total over the same period last year. The increase prompted Italy's government to declare a six-month state of emergency in April, in part to address overcrowding at a center for those who arrive on the Italian island of Lampedusa.
Weeks ahead of elections in Guinea, where Alpha Condé is running for a controversial third presidential term, Amnesty International has released a report documenting harsh repression of the political opposition by his security forces. The crackdown on protests has resulted in the deaths of at least 50 people in less than a year, Amnesty said in the report issued Oct. 1. Between October 2019 and February 2020 alone, more than 30 people were killed in protests against a constitutional change allowing Condé to seek a third term. Of these, 11 were shot and killed by bullets to the head, chest or abdomen. March 22, 2020, the day of the referendum on the constitutional change, was particularly deadly, with at least 12 demonstrators killed, nine of them by gunfire. The opposition boycotted the vote, but demonstrations against the referendum were banned by decree.
In Episode 43 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes stock of the current wave of popular protest and uprisings around the world, and asks if the planet is approaching another moment of revolutionary possibilities, such as was seen in 2011. He examines the prospects for these disparate movements to build solidarity across borders, repudiate ethnic and national divide-and-rule stratagems, and recognize the enemy as transnational capital and the authoritarian states that serve it. With discussions of Hong Kong, mainland China, Indonesia, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Uruguay, Honduras, Costa Rica, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey Iran, Egypt, Algeria, Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia and Guinea. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon.
A new Amnesty International report warns of rising political violence in Guinea amid growing public concern that President Alpha Condé will amend the constitution to run for a third term. Nine protestors were killed last month alone, and scores arrested, including leaders of pro-democracy movements, Amnesty charges in the Nov. 13 report. "This is an affront to human rights and a brutal attempt by the Guinean authorities to silence dissent," said Marie-Evelyne Petrus Barry, Amnesty's West and Central Africa director. At least 60 members of the pro-democracy group National Front for the Defense of the Constitution have been arrested since early October, and a court sentenced five of the group's leaders to up to one year in prison for calling the peaceful protest. Dozens of those who participated were also sentenced to a year in prison for attending an "illegal assembly."