After five straight days of intense protests, dozens of deaths, thousands of injuries, and facing international condemnation for the excessive use of force, Egypt’s military rulers sought to arrange a graceful exit for themselves by announcing that presidential elections would take place sooner than expected. The protesters weren’t buying it. “Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi tried to defuse tensions with his address late Tuesday, but he did not set a date for handing authority to a civilian government, instead offering a referendum on the immediate return of the armed forces to their barracks. The Tahrir crowd, along with protesters in a string of other cities across the nation, want Tantawi to step down immediately in favor of an interim civilian council to run the nation’s affairs until elections for a new parliament and president are held. Street battles have centered around the heavily fortified Interior Ministry, near the iconic square, with police and army troops using tear gas and rubber bullets to keep the protesters from storming the ministry, a sprawling complex that has for long been associated with the hated police and Mubarak’s former regime.” (WaPo http://wapo.st/vrLCt0)
The End of President Saleh’s Rule. For Real.
We’ve written it before. You’ve read it before. But this time is seems really, really likely that Yemen’s long serving autocrat will finally give up power in a deal to be signed in Saudi Arabia today. “The United Nations envoy to Yemen has confirmed that President Ali Abdullah Saleh will sign a deal to transfer power in exchange for immunity from prosecution in the Saudi capital, Riyadh.Jamal bin Omar says Yemen’s opposition and ruling parties have agreed on a mechanism to carry out a U.S.-backed deal brokered by Yemen’s powerful Gulf Arab neighbors to end the country’s political crisis. Bin Omar says Saleh will sign the deal on Wednesday. Saleh has repeatedly agreed to sign the deal, only to back away. Saleh traveled to Riyadh before the signing was announced…But things appeared to be shifting on Tuesday, when the U.N. secretary-general’s envoy to Yemen, Jamal bin Omar, said all parties had agreed on a plan that would have Saleh step down. “All parties agreed today on the Gulf initiative and the implementation of its mechanism,” bin Omar said after meetings with Yemen’s vice president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, in Sanaa. (Time http://ti.me/rr5E2t)
The UN General Assembly’s Syria Smackdown
If you needed evidence of Syria’s growing international isolation, look no further than Tuesday’s vote in the General Assembly calling on Syria to end its human rights abuses. Particularly significant is the decision by veto-wielding Russia and China to abstain from the vote. “The latest resolution says the committee “strongly condemns the continued grave and systematic human rights violations by the Syrian authorities, such as arbitrary executions, excessive use of force and the persecution and killing of protesters and human rights defenders”. But it makes no mention of sanctions. It was backed by Western nations and a number of Arab member states. The resolution received 122 votes in favour, 13 against and 41 abstentions. Arab states that voted for it included co-sponsors Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar and Saudi Arabia as well as Egypt. A previous attempt to pass a resolution in the Security Council was vetoed by Russia and China. The two countries abstained in the latest vote.” (BBC http://bbc.in/utE6f0)
South Africa’s #BlackTuesday
The South African Twitterverse declared yesterday #blacktuesday after parliament passed a sweeping states-secret law. Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu agree with the Internet hordes that the law is, indeed, an affront to the freedom of speech. “South Africa’s National Assembly passed a bill on Tuesday that would ‘protect’ state information and potentially impose 25-year criminal sentences on journalists who publish or possess state documents that the South African government deems to be secret. African National Congress hailed the bill as a necessary measure to protect South Africa’s national security information from foreign spies. But news organizations and civil society groups saw the bill’s passage as a dangerous weakening of the hard-fought freedoms South Africans gained after the fall of the apartheid government. During legislative debate, opposition Democratic Alliance parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko said, ‘If passed, this bill will unstitch the very fabric of our constitution. It will criminalize the freedoms that so many of our people fought for.’” (CSM http://bit.ly/sm79hX)