At first sight it would seem unlikely this would be the first place to run dry. Standing on top of Table mountain overshadowing Cape Town water stretches for as far as the eye can see. Out in the distance you can barely make out the contours of Robben island where Mandela was sentenced.

We are after all near what was once considered to be the continent's southernmost point, leaving nothing but blue, though sometimes choppy, sea all the way to Antarctica.

Unlikely also because the areas around the world's poles tend to be less water stressed, from Russia and Canada in the north, the latter home to some of the world's best water, to Australia and New Zealand in the Southern Hemisphere, the Kiwis also benefiting from some of the world's highest quality h2o.

But as the globe's per capita water supply drops by a third in the two decades leading to 2025 Africa is one of the regions that will feel it most, and despite its relative wealth, South Africa will be hard hit. The looming deadline and rationing in Cape Town, where a third year of drought is threatening to empty the fresh water wells, follows what hydrologists call a once in a millennial event, after the area has been receiving less than half its usually 500mm of rain these recent years. While there has been some reprieve in that day zero, the day the taps run dry, has been pushed back from April to June, that is little comfort considering citizens will have to make do with 25 litres of water from then on. It has however so far been an extraordinary lesson in water consumption.

Twenty five litres would be half the amount rationed since January, in the South African summer. This would be an Olympic exercise in stretching current uses already limited to 20L for dishes, cooking and laundry, 2L for drinking, 15L for a 90 second shower and a few rounds of hand washing, but really you should use sanitizers. And do keep your used water to flush.

Of course not every country has drinkable water, and not every community even has running water. The northernmost areas of the continent, the Middle East and some parts of Asia are facing even more parched prospects, some areas even risking to go to war, a possibility the UN fears could be increasingly widespread in the future.

In the last half century over 1,800 water related crises have opposed countries, thankfully most were settled peacefully but 21 involved military violence, 18 of them involving Israel and its neighbors in the bone dry Middle East. Egypt in particular is concerned a major dam project in Ethiopia could affect water flow and quality for the Nile.

Also a number of observers have noted water woes played no small part leading to the rise of ISIS in Syria, where it was successful recruiting in dry areas which had suffered economically due to these shortages. Overall water issues have rarely led to war in the past but this could change as the planet enters uncharted waters says Peter Engelke of the Atlantic councils strategic foresight initiative.

“There are very good reasons why we should be concerned,” he wrote in the Washington Post. The sentiment is being echoed halfway across the world in bone dry California. “What we can see is that it’s very possible for water crises - which emerge all the time across the world - to get close to the point of real, massive human disaster,”  said Michael Kiparsky of the University of California.

It did end up raining in Cape Town recently, but hydrologists say the usual predictive models can be thrown out the window. Water availability may never return to what it once was, there or in California for that matter. Cape Town's con-sumption is down to half the more than billion litres per day it once was, but that didn't prevent authorities from declaring a state of national disaster this week.

So now some are reconsidering that expanse of blue but salted water surrounding the urban archipelago. Albeit expensive, desalination plans may be the way to go in the future. “The diversification of our water sources would have helped a lot earlier,” University of Cape Town scientist Kevin Winter told Wired. Small scale desalination plants will at first provide some 4 million of the 160 million gallons of water the city gulps every day, an expensive yet necessary solution in these times of crisis.

But this may improve in time. “Desalination techno-logy is going to change considerably in the coming years,” Winter says. “I think what the city is currently doing right now is to go slowly with its experiments and it will start to ratchet those up in time.” And the country involved in the most cases of water wars, Israel, may actually have a few useful lessons, besides fighting wars, to provide.

The Jewish state, which borders the Dead Sea and land parts of which are notoriously salty, is now producing more freshwater than it needs. “It kind of depends how bad you need the water,” says Amy Childress of the University of Southern California. “And that’s exactly where South Africa is.” The country and city are finally trying to catch up doing what it should have been doing, and that is diversifying water sources. Others are going to some length trying to do the same thing, especially mega power China.

By some accounts Beijing is looking at relying on recycled water from sewage treatment plants, not for drinking but to clean roads and water gardens. The city has for years had strict water quotas. Others are looking deep to find solutions. The United Nations says 23 million cubic kilometres of water lie in the world's underground aquifers and improvements in drilling technology may one day make this much needed blue gold available. But until then Cape Town and the continent is at the mercy of Mother Nature and rainfall.


Located near a church in the Central Java city of Yogyakarta, the hotel had many of the usually listed restrictions posted on a sign outside. The Translated version could make some English speakers smile with amusement, such as: “Drunk before inside probibited" and "Against taking... all of drugs" And then this: “No womanish and manish please.”

Even in tolerant Indonesia, which prides itself of its “unity in diversity,” some well paying patrons were not welcome due to their sexual orientation. And this was over a decade ago, before the screws started tightening against the country’s LGBTQ community in 2016.

Two years on, concern among neighbors have been rising as Jakarta ponders draft laws that could criminalize same sex activities, to the point of also threatening sex outside marriage.

The road here has been a long and frightening one starting in January 2016 with a single outrageous tweet: that of an education minister saying he wanted to ban LGBT student groups from university campuses.

While this may have sparked outrage and a tide of condemnation elsewhere, it was met with a flood of support in the form of anti-LGBT vitriol, says Kyle Knight of Human Rights Watch. 

As a result over 300 Indonesians were arrested last year for alleged gay behaviour, the May raid of a popular gay sauna leading some to be sentenced for years in prison.

Vigilantes have also often taken the law into their own hands, forcibly entering an apartment in Aceh in March for alleged same sex relations, a charge for which their were publicly flogged under regional sharia law.

The direction the country has been taking has caused concerns regionally and overseas. ASEAN lawmakers produced a joint statement in early February calling the proposed laws “a blatant violation of all the Indonesians rights to privacy and their fundamental liberties.”

In Canada MP Randall Garrison, an openly gay politician who lived in the country with his partner, drew attention to the law and asked the prime minister to join him expressing concern “about the emerging campaigns of hatred and violence directed at the lgbt community.”

Sadly neighbor Malaysia has been going down the same road.


As the world cools down its level of alert over North Korea in the lead up to the opening ceremonies in Pyeongchang some European countries are boosting their defense systems against a more familiar and regional power.

Having chased quite a few Soviet submarines around Stockholm’s archipelago during the Cold War, it's fair to say Sweden has often been wary of Moscow’s influence in the region, but its latest defense push has been a regional wake up call on the risk of modern day Russian intervention, especially in an often macho tainted electoral year. It’s not alone.

Days after its RAF fighters chased Russian bombers out of its skies Great Britain announced it was beefing up defenses to deter any aggression Vladimir Putin may have  in mind, while  Washington’s latest defense analysis made plain the formidable foes that are Russia and China, not terrorism, constituted the greatest threat to the homeland. These countries are “the real challenge” facing the US military according to the administration’s national defense strategy.

“Inter-state strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in US national security,” it wrote, noting these priorities would “require both increased and sustained investment.” For neutral Sweden the Russian bear is a much closer threat as it is gearing up to prepare its citizens for “crisis and catastrophes in peacetime, but also for different kinds of attacks on society and Sweden” and reinstate conscription about eight years after it ended it.

Sweden, home to an impressive defense industry despite its modest size, boosted its military budget by $720 million over five years three years ago but is short in terms of recruitment numbers, missing about 1000 full time troop leaders in various armed service branches. London meanwhile is also growing wary its ability to respond to threats “will be eroded if we don’t keep up with our adversaries.” And Russia has been boosting its military and nuclear capabilities, its latest war games in the fall showing the continent its might on Europe’s doorstep.

Great Britain’s military was cut after the financial crisis, and the British army may be facing another round of cuts, sparking concern amid the ranks. “The time to address these threats is now, we cannot afford to sit back,” chief of the general staff Nick Carter said in a speech. The threats are also growing in cyberspace, he added, stressing “we have seen how cyber warfare can be both waged in the battlefield and to disrupt normal people’s lives.”

Moscow treated claims by Britain's defense secretary, Gavin Williamson, that it could cause “thousands and thousands and thousands” of deaths with attacks crippling  the UK's infrastructure and energy supply with derision, calling it a scenario straight out of a Monty Python sketch. Williamson had "lost his grasp on reason," a spokesman for the Russian defense ministry said.

The secretary had said a Russian offensive wouldn't come in the form of something that could have been expected in the previous century. "The plan for the Russians won't be for landing craft to appear in the South Bay in Scarborough, and off Brighton Beach," he said. "They are going to be thinking, 'How can we just cause so much pain to Britain? Damage its economy, rip its infrastructure apart, actually cause thousands and thousands and thousands of deaths, but actually have an element of creating total chaos within the country.'"

This could come in the way of a rocket launch or cyber attack, he noted.  More than ever the great power rivals of China, Russia and the United States, which seeks to boost its defense budget to over $700 billion under Trump, are engaged in a high end high technology race that will make all the difference on the battlefield, focusing on zones of regional influence, according to the Economist, such as Ukraine and the South China Sea.

Old fashioned methods, such as arms sales, are also developing these spheres, one that is extending to Africa, Russia having directed a recent shipment to the Central African Republic. Russia has also been cosying up to countries of the Caribbean, from Grenada to ideological ally Cuba. Recently Washington added new sanctions against Russia for its continued occupation of Crimea. "The US government is committed to maintaining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and to targeting those who attempt to undermine the Minsk agreements," Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said in a statement.

"Those who provide goods, services, or material support to individuals and entities sanctioned by the United States for their activities in Ukraine are engaging in behavior that could expose them to US sanctions." Sanctions were also levelled against senior leaders of two Ukrainian separatist groups, the Donetsk People's Republic and the Luhansk People's Republic and supporters. Nothing whips up nationalism like an election.

As the U.S. was also considering sanctions against Russia for meddling in the 2016 presidential election, Moscow warned this would be tantamount to interfering in its own election. Doubling the irony was the fact the current U.S. president is seen as having heavily benefited from Russian interference. The CIA director told the BBC this week that Russia was expected to target this year's mid-term U.S. elections, and votes in other parts of the world. Mike Pompeo also said he was just as concerned about China's abilities to influence the West covertly.

Tensions are further fueled by military dog fights in the open skies. This week another close encounter was registered between a plane from a NATO country and a Russian fighter, when the latter came within five feet of a US Navy plane over the Black Sea. Russia has been tightening its watch of the zone even since it grabbed Crimea, and this is only the latest close encounter after U.S. jets intercepted Russian fighters over Syria last December, all potential flash points between prodding rivals.


Le jour international de commémoration de la Shoah, le musée de l’histoire des juifs polonais et son impressionnant monument au centre de Varsovie étaient la scène de cérémonies touchantes, le site ayant été celui du ghetto si tragiquement liquidé, une des horreurs du régime nazi.

Mais une autre tragédie engouffre le pays ces derniers temps. Des manifestations de neo-nazis ont occupé les rues de la vieille capitale, et le gouvernement de centre droite a présenté une loi controversée sur la Shoah 75 ans après le soulèvement du ghetto.

Cette loi pénalise “l’attribution à la nation ou à l’état polonais, en dépit des faits, de crimes contre l’humanité”, ce qui a semé la consternation de Jérusalem à Washington. Le président Andrzej Duda a quant à lui demandé à la cour constitutionnelle d’examiner la loi, mais l’indépendance de la cour laissant à désirer en raison de l’influence du parti au pouvoir, cela n’a rien fait pour rassurer des capitales "déçues" par la loi.

Selon plusieurs observateurs celle-ci menace la liberté d’expression, à une époque où l’anti-sémitisme prend de l’ampleur dans ce pays qui sous l’occupation a perdu six millions de ses citoyens, et tente de blanchir la tragique histoire de la Pologne. La loi prévoit trois ans de prison pour toute personne désignant de «camps de la mort polonais» les camps de concentration de la deuxième guerre mondiale.

Le projet de loi ne date pas d'hier mais a été déterré par les ultranationalistes au pouvoir. Les crimes haineux ont connu une croissance alarmante au pays, une augmentation de 40% en deux ans, puis le Conseil contre la discrimination raciale, la xénophobie et l’intolérance a été aboli.

Cette vague xénophobe récente se serait même emparée de la télévision d’état, selon des observateurs, et aurait connu ses départs lors de la crise des réfugiés de 2015 et la prise au pouvoir des ultra conservateurs du parti Droit et justice. En août dernier le congrès polonais s’étonnait même de “l’absence de préoccupation étonnante du gouvernement de la Pologne envers la croissance et la normalisation de la rhétorique anti sémite et xénophobe dans le pays”.

Cette semaine l'ancien premier ministre Jaroslaw Kaczynski faisait appel au rejet de l'anti sémitisme tout en justifiant la loi controversée. «Aujour-d’hui, les ennemis de la Pologne, on pourrait dire le diable, nous souffle une très mauvaise recette, une grave maladie de l’âme, de l’esprit… Cette maladie est l’anti sémitisme. Nous devons le rejeter, le rejeter résolument, dit-il. Mais cela ne veut pas dire que nous devons donner raison à ceux, qu’ils soient Juifs ou Polonais » qui insultent la Pologne.

« Nous devons défendre la vérité sur ce qui s’est passé en Pologne pendant la deuxième guerre mondiale», ajouta-t-il devant ses partisans. Le premier ministre Mateusz Morawiecki tentait également de calmer le jeu. «Je veux inviter chaque personne à contribuer à une pensée positive... d'éviter des déclarations anti sémites, parce qu'elles nourrissent nos enemis et nos adversaires, dit-il. Il faut l'éviter comme la peste, même les blagues bêtes et non nécessaires. Plus important, expliquons ensemble comment les choses se sont passées."

Mais légiférer ce genre de discussion n'est pas la bonne marche à suivre selon Human Rights Watch. "Plutôt que criminaliser la discussion de ces crimes odieux le gouvernement devrait créer un environnement propre au débat public, où des arguments vérifiés peuvent être avancés sans crainte de représailles." Ce qui semble loin d'être le cas de nos jours.


Known for its pristine beaches, perfect tropical weather and exclusive resorts, the paradise island nation of the Maldives nevertheless has been developing an ugly side over the years, political as you may suspect.

The idyllic picture suffered a bit when it found itself in the path of the 2004 tsunami and later became a poster nation of rising oceans and global warming, under president Mohamed Nasheen, but these were actually much more pleasant days.

They came to an end when the nation’s first and only democratically elected leader was deposed in a coup in 2012, and democracy there has encountered rough waters since. His successor, the current president, was elected in a controversial run off election in 2013.

Recently, the ship has taken on water and is sinking in a typhoon of an international criticism as president Abdullah Yameen has faced accusations of becoming a full time autocrat after declaring a state of emergency and arresting two Supreme Court judges who had recently called the arrest and conviction of opposition figures invalid.

Under pressure the remaining three judges reversed the ruling, causing observers to fear the direction the atoll is taking. “The world’s eyes are on the Maldives right now,” said Amnesty international’s Biraj Patnaik. “A state of emergency cannot be used to carry out what appears to be a purge of the Supreme Court and the opposition.”

But little seems to stand in Yameen’s way, certainly not family ties after he arrested former president Maumoon Gayoom, who happened to be a half brother, in the course of his actions. “We are on a path to completely destroying democracy,” decried Ahmed Tholal of Transparency Maldives, telling the New York Times the latest actions amounted to a “military takeover.”

The country was politically stable until the end of a 30-year autocratic rule by Gayoom, who had been Asia's longest serving ruler. Two years ago Yameen's Vice President Ahmed Adeeb was convicted of plotting to assassinate his superior after an incident on the president's boat.

That curious year the leader of the MDP opposition party was jailed under panned anti-terror laws, the government imposing a state of emergency ahead of expected mass opposition protests. The latest crisis occurred when the courts  overturned terrorism and corruption convictions against nine high-profile politicians, including the exiled former president Nasheed.

The country's attorney general accused the top court of trying to remove Yameen. But opposition parties called the statement "an unconstitutional, highly illegal, and dangerous attempt" to usurp the powers of the country's courts.


Now that Osama bin Laden is dead, now that ISIS is in retreat and most foreign troops are gone, will it matter? The deadly weekend attack of a packed Kabul street killing over 100, the bloodiest in a recent string of attacks which included the targeting of foreigners in a hotel the week before, was the latest illustration of the deteriorating security situation in the Afghan capital.

What does this say about the much more lawless rest of the country? Large portions of it are under the control of the Taleban, still 17 years after the international military effort against the Islamist group, which claimed responsibility for the attack and that of a hotel, killing 22, and especially targeting foreigners, the previous week.

The Red Cross called the use of a bomb laden ambulance to carry out the attack “harrowing”. According to authorities the plotters managed to get through to checkpoints by claiming they were bringing a patient to a hospital in the highly secured zone. This was the deadliest attack since a suicide bomb killed 150 in May. In October 176 people were killed in a single week of violence across the country.

In January, there had been over 50 victims of attacks leading up to the devastating ambulance explosion. Despite the many civilian casualties security forces have been bearing the brunt of attacks in the last few years, another attack claiming a dozen police this week. Analyst Haroun Mir told the BBC the endemic corruption in government is undermining the work of the security forces.

"You are still seeing a serious political crisis in the country and the issue of bad government and corruption has not be resolved," he said. "Because of these tremendous challenges and this continuing corruption at the highest level of leadership, it has undermined the effectiveness of the Afghan security forces."

The latter are struggling to contain the Taleban, leading the U.S. to nearly double its presence over the last year. From 8,500 forces, mainly there to train Afghan soldiers, a surge announced by Trump last fall looks to bring the current 11,000 up to 15,000, embedding military advisers on the front lines with the struggling Afghan army, further prolonging U.S. presence in the war, America's longest military involvement in history.

Assisted by a drone program determined to prevent the development of any large scale training camps, the likes of which allowed al-Qaida to develop, the renewed push, spearheaded by U.S. brigades specifically designed to advise and assist foreign armies, isn't convincing everyone it will deliver greater security.

“Any idea that these teams are going to come in and radically change things is a huge overexpectation,” David Sedney, a former senior Pentagon official told Politico. “I think they will make a difference, but what degree of difference — that we won’t know for several years, which is the time frame it takes with an institution as fragile and flawed as the Afghan National Army, which we partially trained, partially abandoned and are now coming back to.” 

And leaving would hardly be an option, notes Foreign Affairs, considering the stakes. "A total U.S. departure, which would essentially signal an open defeat, would boost the morale of the jihadists... (After the Soviets left) a victory over yet another superpower would provide them with a tremendous psychological boost." In the mean time there is every indication ISIS, which has claimed some of the Afghan attacks, and the Taleban, are in a bloody duel to come out on top in the endless conflict.


Presque trente ans depuis la chute du mur, la démocratie est en déclin à travers le monde et 2017 a été particulièrement dur envers les libertés politiques et civiles à travers la planète. Évidemment lorsqu’un champion des libertés en prend un coup, c’est le globe entier qui souffre. Qu’en pensez-vous M Fukuyama?

Alors qu’il s’agissait de la douzième année de déclin de suite de l’index de Freedom House sur les droits et libertés à travers le monde, pas moins de 71 pays ont regressé à ce chapitre l’an dernier, en faisant le pire en dix ans.

Le déclin de l’empire américain a notamment fragilisé sa crédibilité à titre de champion des droits de l’homme, selon Freedom House, qui note le manque de transparence et de distinction entre les affaires personnelles du président et sa fonction, le choix de membres de sa famille pour remplir des postes à la Maison Blanche et ses dures paroles envers les médias.

Les géant américain reste un pays de libertés, mais fragilisé par un an de présidence Trump. L'Economist Intelligence Unit va encore plus loin, le classant à titre de démocratie réduite, et ce depuis quelques années déjà. C'est en fait sous la présidence Obama que les Etats-Unis auraient glissé parmi les démocraties imparfaites, exclus du club de 35 pays, dont le Canada et tous les pays nordiques, qui trônent au palmarès.

Mais d’autres pays ont également glissé l'an dernier, notamment une Turquie prise dans la névrose qui a suivi le putsch raté, une République centrafricaine  encore marquée par la violence et un Venezuela plongé au cœur d’une terrible crise dont le président a le culot de se présenter aux urnes cette année.

Au plus creux du puits, malheureusement, les jeunes pays que sont l’Érythrée et le Sud Soudan sans parler de la Syrie et de la Corée du Nord mais aussi de l’Arabie saoudite, qui promet des réformes importantes. Trente cinq pays ont changé pour le mieux cependant, des progrès notables ayant été enregistrés en Gambie suite à l’élection, à l’origine contestée, d’Adama Barrow, et en Ouganda, grâce au courage des médias traditionnels et sociaux.

Même le Timor, né dans la tourmente, a franchi le seuil des états libres grâce aux élections de 2017. La tragédie du Myanmar et les influences de pays non démocratiques comme la Russie et la Chine font malheureusement de 2017 une année de recul à l’échelle mondiale, note Freedom House, leurs propagandes étendant leurs tentacules des États Unis en Australie en passant par Londres et Paris.


Alors que le Kosovo se prépare à fêter le dixième anniversaire de sa déclaration d’indépendance, l’assassinat d’un politicien serbe à Mitrovica, ville de toutes les divisions, est venu aggraver les tensions qui planent sur la région.

Comme le lien de pierre de la ville qui fut reconstruit après la guerre, Olivier Ivanovic se voulait un pont entre les communautés, un politicien modéré tentant de rassembler les Kosovars serbes et albanais résistant à la ligne dure qu’aurait souhaité Belgrade pour les représentants de sa minorité dans un état qu’elle ne reconnaît d’ailleurs pas.

Plus de cent pays ont reconnu cette région albanophone lors-qu’elle a déclaré son indépendance en février 2008 mais pour les Serbes de l’ex province de la Serbie le conflit qui a fait 13000 morts est loin d’être oublié, tout comme le fait que plusieurs sites d’importance  historique ont été annexés par ce nouvel état.

Le crime revêt un potentiel de déstabilisation de la région, selon des analystes, d’autant plus qu’il s’agit d’une année électorale en Serbie, donc proie aux élans nationalistes. L’incident a jeté un froid sur les longs efforts de pacification en cours, les représentants des deux communautés interrompant le dialogue de normalisation des relations sous l’égide de l’UE.

Le président kosovar Hashim Thaci de son côté a condamné l’assassinat, exigeant que la justice s’empare de l’affaire pour écrouer le ou les coupables. Alors que Belgrade soupçonne l’implication de terroristes albanais les premiers indices privilégient celle de groupes criminels serbes, très présents dans le nord du territoire.

Ivanovic avait d’ailleurs fait l’objet d’intimidation de la part des nationalistes des enclaves serbes du Kosovo, qui l’ont déjà traité de “traître” et de “collaborateur des Albanais”. L’été dernier sa voiture avait été incendiée.

Les deux communautés sont sur les dents alors que les premières inculpations doivent être dévoilées par le tribunal spécial sur les crimes de guerre commis au Kosovo entre 1998 et 2000. Thaci , passible d’être mentionné, est à la tête d’une fragile minorité après que l’UCK ait réussi de justesse de conserver le pouvoir lors des législatives de juin.

Moscou, alliée de Belgrade, est accusée par Pristina de chercher à destabiliser le Kosovo en   accusant le régime et l'Occident d'avoir "quelque-chose à cacher sur le meurtre." L’économie du Kosovo est souffrante, plus d’un quart des Kosovars étant au chômage  tandis que le taux de pauvreté est tout juste sous la barre des 30%.


Protests against rising food prices and unemployment have not only rocked Iran but countries of North Africa as well as they welcomed the new year, including the tiny country which sparked the Arab Spring. In reality protests have been commonplace since the 2011 revolution in Tunisia which led to the ouster of strongman Ben Ali.

Seven years later familiar areas of the country are rioting against food prices and high unemployment, including Sidi Bouzid, where Mohammed Bouazizi took his life, launching revolution.

The scene this month was nothing like the outbreak of 2011 but did lead to the arrest of hundreds and the death of at least one person under unclear circumstances. Authorities deny the 43 year old in the town of Tebourba was killed as a result of police action as authorities faced stones and Molotov cocktails.

“The situation was already difficult and then came a budget bill making things even harder and life more difficult," Tunisian opposition representative Amor Cherni tells France 24. “We warned them of the disastrous impact this would have on social conditions.” Finance Minister Ridha Chalghoum says the bill did not impact basic necessities while the interior minister said protests, which are legal, have degenerated into gratuitous acts of violence and looting.

But observers say authorities have been using some of the incidents as pretext to crack down on dissent. “While it is legitimate to arrest those who have committed violence, it is unacceptable to see random arrests and detentions," said Amna Guellali, Tunisia researcher at Human Rights Watch.

"[Recent] events should not constitute a pretext for a crackdown on social movements and activists.” Cherni says citizens who lead the revolution to lead better lives are facing more hardships. “What we expected was an improvement and that didn’t happen,” he says, blaming widespread corru-ption. This has also been the complaint in Iran since the end of sanctions and in Sudan as well.

Protests over bread prices have also erupted in that country after the government removed food subsidies in a recent austerity package. The country has less tolerance for protest than Tunisia and has been cracking down violently, leading to at least one death and the arrest of an opposition politician.

Months after the U.S. lifted sanctions Sudan is trying to conduct economic reforms but faces high inflation and a shortage of foreign currency hampering trade while unemployment runs at around 20%.

Still wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court over atrocities in Darfur, leader Omar Bashir has cracked down on critical media outlets reporting on the troubles and those unsup-portive of austerity measures. Both Tunisia and Sudan have introduced the controversial austerity measures in an effort to sanitize finances to satisfy the IMF's conditions for continued funding. Since the revolution food prices have increased by about 8% a year in Tunisia, while wages have remained relatively unchan-ged.

As another week of protest came to an end and Tunisians marked the seventh anniversary of the 2011 revolution, authorities vowed to conduct a wave of reforms that would consider measures for the poor such as minimum wage and health care for all, but urged moderation as "your country has limited means." President Beji Caid Essebsi conceded overall that "the social and political climate isn't good" in Tunisia.


L’annonce de la sélection des membres d’équipe Canada s’est déroulée sans fanfare cette année . Il faut dire que l’exclusion des joueurs professionnels  a créé une certaine grogne, surtout au Canada, ou le hockey détrône tout autre sport et dont le club a remporté trois des quatre dernières médailles d’or.

Résultat, certains vont jusqu’à prôner un boycott des parties de la ligue nationale lors des jeux olympiques. Il ne s’agit après tout de pas en vouloir aux olympiens qui porteront l’unifolie avec fierté, dont la plupart évoluent à l’étranger après quelques passage dans la ligue nationale, mais de pénaliser cette ligue gripe-sous.

Sans ces stars Le tournoi olympique pourrait au moins réserver certaines surprises en consequent, et même promouvoir la paix dans le monde. En effet le hockey est une discipline où les deux corées envisagent de faire front commun, un rappel que le sport a pu donner lieu à une diplomatie sur patins pendant la guerre froide.

Les deux corees prévoient ainsi de mettre sur glace une équipe commune en plus de défiler ensemble sous le thème de la réunification lors de la cérémonie d’ouverture des jeux olympiques. Une délégation nord coréenne devait visiter les installations alors qu’une équipe sud coréenne prévoyait de s’entraîner au nord de la ligne de démarcation. 

Symbolique, le geste n’est pas historique puisque les deux ont déjà défilé ensemble en 2000, 2004 et 2006, mais vu le contexte récent il n’est pas sans conséquence. La participation à une équipe olympique commune est cependant une première, et on est bien loin de 1988, lorsque Pyongyang avait boycotté les jeux de Séoul.

“C’est vraiment un exemple de stratégie diplomatique par le sport qu’on a la, estime un spécialiste de la géopolitique du sport, Maxime Desirat. Il y a un potentiel d’images énorme pour l’état, qui se sert avant tout du sport comme un outil de projection de l’image du régime, comme mme une vitrine.” Un peu ce que la Russie a dans l’esprit avec le Mondial.

L’annonce vient alors que plusieurs pays se rencontraient au Canada lors d’un sommet sur la Corée du Nord dans l’esprit d’un réchauffement des rapports qui a cependant servi un avertissement des risques de existants. Ce qui est bon pour la paix risque-t-il d’être nuisible pour le sport?

L’entraîneuse canadienne du club aurait préféré que ces changements aient eu lieu bien plus à l’avance, et nos lors des derniers jours. Celle-ci craint en effet que la “chimie” développée entre ces athlètes, dont quelques canadiennes, ne soit perturbée par les ajouts diplomatiques de dernière minute.

Du moins la tradition de la trêve olympique semble t elle se poursuivre, même si en 2014 celle-ci avait vite été suivie par l’annexion de la Crimée par la Russie. Encore une fois, la paix est-Elle temporaire?


Years after Colombia reached a deal with its largest rebel group, peace has moved forward but remains a work in progress is the South American country.

There was a shocking reminder of this when president Juan Manual Santos, who was given the Nobel peace prize for reaching peace with the Revolutionary armed forces of Colombia (FARC) , recalled his envoy and halted talks with another rebel group, the National liberation army (ELN) after it recently ended a ceasefire.

Attacks on an oil pipeline and an army base this month scuttled talks scheduled for Quito. This came hours after the ceasefire ended and showed the on-again off-again nature of negotiations with the country’s remaining recalcitrant rebel group. ELN only engaged in peace talks in February of 2017, nearly a year after saying it would do so, but agreed to a ceasefire in September.

Observers attribute challenges in dealing with the group to its diffuse command structure, but the president remains committed to achieving peace as part of his legacy before he leaves office later in 2018. Members of FARC meanwhile are transitioning to politics.

Earlier Santos had met with former FARC members praising the pace of peace efforts, calling it “the most complex peace agreement witnessed by the world in the last 30 years.” But his counterpart, now heading the Revolutionary alternative common force political party, criticized the government for its failure to uphold part of the peace deal. Both agreed efforts should continue however.

The stalled ELN peace effort prompted the UN Secretary General to head to Bogotá recently to encourage its resumption. “There is no justification for the armed conflict in Colombia to continue,” said Antonio Guterres at the end of his visit, warning of the risks to the peace process after the latest flare-up. Santos may very well end his tenure, the last he is allowed under the constitution, without having attained true peace in Colombia.

The country heads to the polls this Spring a fragmented nation, in part due to the polarizing deal with FARC, shattering the coalition in place when Santos came to power in 2010. An economic slowdown and probe into illegal campaign financing have reduced his popularity considerably in the twilight of his presidency, leaving him without a heir to defend his legacy.

Leading a wide field of independent candidates is the governor of Antioquia, enviroment-friendly Sergio Fajardo. While he is supportive of the FARC deal, the small structure of his party could make him "too weak to move forward on critical issues such as peace negotiations with the ELN," according to a Stratfor analysis. Any newcomer would find daunting the task of succeeding where Santos has failed - with great frustration.

But the ELN quagmire also risks affecting the outcome of FARC talks. “The impact of not achieving a deal with the ELN on the current peace agreement [with FARC] would be huge,” political analyst Catalina Giron told the Washington Post. “It’s especially a risk for commitments related to reintegration of FARC fighters there back into civilian life.”

So there is quite a lot riding on the efforts to rein in ELN, and no lack of challenges for any incoming administration, chief among them the need to sweep clean the second most mine-infested country on the face of the Earth


Eager to avenge its heartbreak shootout loss in the finals last year on home ice, Team Canada entered the juniors tournament in Buffalo on a furious pace, outscoring its opponents 21-6 and suffering a single loss in the opening round, to its nemesis, Team USA, in an outdoor game 4-3 in overtime.

By the time they disposed of Switzerland 8-2 and Czechia 7-2 to return to the gold medal game, the 16-time champions learned they would not be meeting the hosts in the final, felled by the Tre Kronors 4-2 in a stunning semifinal. This has been a lean decade for Team Canada, only capturing the tournament in 2015 previously after a five-year drought. 

But this has been healthy for the junior hockey tournament, which saw three finals takes place since 2010 without either Canada or the U.S. Undefeated Sweden had a score to settle with Canada, having been battered 5-1 the last time these two team met in the finals in 2009.

The Tre Kronor were determined to make a game out of it, outshooting Canada and keeping pace after the team in red broke the ice in the second period. More importantly, it would deny a team with a 57% score rate in the powerplay all five men advantages, tying the game 1-1 a man short, its third consecutive goal shorthanded after taking two in the upset against the Americans.

In the third Sweden threatened anew, hitting the post and coming just short of taking the lead. With less than two minutes to go it looked like the two would have to settle it in extra time when centre Tyler Steenbergen decided to score his first goal, putting Canada on the edge of glory. This came moments later when Team Canada's Alex Formenton scored in an empty net, sending the red and white crowd packing Buffalo arena into a frenzy.

"The guys were giving me a hard time for not scoring during the tournament, but I think they're pretty happy right now," said Steenbergen after the game. "This is unbelievable."  Goalie Carter Hart,  one of the winnigest goalies in Team Canada history, stopped 35 shots and was named tournament MVP while Drake Batherson of the Quebec junior league, who was key in the play leading to the winning goal, shared the top of the scoring board, on a team with 15 different goal scorers where nearly every player collected at least one point.


Comme si une bisbille internationale sur le nucléaire, la guerre chaude en Syrie et au Yémen et froide avec le monde arabe n’étaient pas assez, la république islamique se voit plongée dans une rare crise interne aux origines plutôt familières, le prix des denrées.

Mais y a-t-il vraiment une perspective de printemps perse? Les derniers éclats ont fait plus de 20 morts depuis la multiplication des manifes-tations contre le régime; non seulement la présidence de Hassan Rohani, mais la direction suprême des ayatollahs.

Au coeur des éclats Rohani critiquait "la violence et la destruction de biens publics" mais reconnaissait le besoin de créer "un espace pour que les partisans de la révolution et le peuple puissent exprimer leurs inquiétudes quoti-diennes". Une brèche pour l'opposition après les pires manifestations en neuf ans?

"Critiquer est totalement différent de l'utilisation de la violence et de la destruction des biens publics, dit-il. Nous accueillons positivement les critiques". Mais cette citation laissait à désirer après des années de persécution et de violences contre les opposants du pouvoir, qui se sont retrouvés soit en prison, soit en exil.

Le régime limitait l'accès aux médias sociaux, qui comme lors du printemps arabe avaient permis aux manifestants de s'organiser et de coordonner leurs actions. Les applications Instagram et Telegram ont notamment été resserrées pour "maintenir la tranquilité" mais celle-ci était bien absente à Téhéran et dans plusieurs autres villes du pays où les manifestants exigeaient ouvertement la fin du régime des mollahs et la "mort du dictateur". Les gardes révolutionnaires ont nié être responsables des victimes lors des éclats mais menaçaient les manifestants de gestes violents.

Plus de 500 personnes auraient été arrêtées depuis le début des manifestations, que le pouvoir accuse des agents étrangers d'avoir provoqué pour déstabiliser le régime. L'appui du président américain en faveur des protestations a rapidement été critiqué par Rohani. "Ce monsieur aux États-Unis, qui veut monter de la sympathie à l'égard du peuple iranien, oublie qu'il l'a traité de terroriste (...)", dit-il, ajoutant que Trump "n'a pas le droit de compatir avec le peuple iranien".

Les dernières grandes manifestations de ce genre avaient en 2009 causé la mort de centaines de personnes après la ré-élection contestée du conservateur Ahmedinejad à la présidentielle, lançant le "mouvement vert" iranien. Mais l'élection de présidents épousant une ligne moins dure, comme celle de Khatami lors des années 90, n'avait que rappelé la soumission du chef de l'état à celle du chef spirituel et du régime des mollahs, fortement critiqués par les manifestants dont certains osaient parler d'un retour de la monarchie.

Les causes plus profondes de la crise actuelle mettent en cause la corruption aux plus hautes instances et le manque d'amélioration du sort des citoyens malgré la levée de certaines sanctions depuis 2015. "L'accord nucléaire a l'appui du public mais on s'attendait à plus de développement en consé-quence," résume Trita Parsi du Conseil national irano américain.

Aussi l'investissement étranger ne s'est pas concrétisé comme prévu alors que le pouvoir maintient la ligne dure contre ses citoyens. Mais l'opposition reste fragmentaire et les manifestations ne connaissent pas les nombres importants de 2009.

Celles-ci ont pu quand même étaler le catalogue des revendications de la population iranienne, allant du chômage à l'égalité des femmes. Et c'est sans parler du gaspillage de tous ces conflits coûteux et de l'appui du Hezbollah. De son propre aveu Rohani avouait "nous ne connaissons pas de défi plus important que celui du chômage. Notre économie a besoin d'une chirurgie corrective."

Mais plusieurs revendiquent également une chirurgie politique et sociale presque 40 ans après la révolution iranienne.


Immense pays aux divisions internes importantes, le Congo peut cependant éviter les clivages religieux qui divisent certains pays de la région, comme le Nigeria. Et parce que le christianisme est de loin la religion la plus importante, lorsque le clergé a mobilisé des foules pour marquer l’anniversaire de la signature d’un accord, sous l’égide des évêques, prévoyant des élections, les manifestations contestant la candidature du président Kabila à sa propre succession ont été importantes et sévèrement réprimées.

Une dizaine de personnes ont été tuées et plusieurs arrêtés au début de l’année lors de ces mouvements et des policiers sont même entrés dans des églises pour mettre fin à la contestation. Les forces de l’ordre auraient tiré en l’air en faisant usage du gaz lacrymogène pour disperser les manifestants, tuant quelques participants par balles.

L'opposition et des membres d’autres religions ne se sont pas laissés intimider pour autant par le pouvoir, qui a interdit toute participation et interrompu parfois l’accès à internet pour empêcher la coordination des rassemblements. Portant des bibles, chapelets ou crucifix et menés par des enfants de cœur, les manifestants ont demandé au président de ne pas se présenter à la prochaine présidentielle, repoussée à la fin de l'année.

Des forces de l’ordre furent postées à l’extérieur des lieux saints mais érigèrent également des barrages, le pouvoir affirmant avoir été informé de “distribution d’armes... pour s’en prendre à la paisible population et à diverses populations publiques.” L’archévêque de Kinshasa a quant à lui qualifié de “barbarie” les interventions policières musclées du régime, dont le président est en poste depuis 2001.

“Nous avons fait le choix de nous mobiliser pour que le régime tienne ses engagements et que les choses changent,explique à La Croix Thierry Nlandu Mayamba, membre du Comité laïc de coordination du diocèse de Kinshasa. Un changement n’exclut pas des sacrifices mais quand on est face à un régime au comportement dictatorial la seule issue demeure la protestation.”

Aussi, ajoute-t-il, il peut paraître injuste qu' “on fait appel à l’église (en 2016) parce que les représentants politiques avaient échoué à trouver une solution de sortie de crise... en revanche quand elle commence à dénoncer les anomalies elle est stigmatisée et diabolisée“. En fin de compte “la contestation ne dépend pas des évêques , elle continuera tant qu’il y aura des Congolais qui souffrent.”

Cette souffrance et cette crise rappellent les grandes transitions du passé, selon Kris Berwouts, auteur de “Congo’s violent peace”. "La RDC traverse une grave crise politique, économique et financière qui ressemble à bien des égards à la fin du régime de Mobutu dans les années 1990, dit-il.

L’État ne fonctionne plus à l’échelon local, quand il n’a pas tout simplement disparu, et ne parvient pas davantage à réguler les conflits. Les institutions se désagrègent. La plupart des acteurs institutionnels ont perdu leur légitimité, leur cohésion et leur crédibilité... L'Eglise est le seul acteur encore debout".


En cette soixantième année de la révolution les Castro sont en veille de tirer leur révérence, mais une retraite est-elle véritablement envi-sagée par Raoul, frère du héros révolutionnaire? Le paysage permet encore mal  d'imaginer cette île sans un comandante de la famille.

A Matanzas, à l’est de La Havane, un immense panneau d’affiche montre encore un Fidel triomphant, le poing levé, à la barre d’un peuple “laborieux et révolutionnaire.” Un peu plus loin une autre enseigne près de la gare de bus le montre en compagnie de son frère et d’Hugo Chavez. Le survivant du trio Marxiste est prêt lui aussi à quitter le gouvernail, du moins en partie.

La date du départ a été reportée de février en avril lorsque le vice président Miguel Diaz-Canel tentera de poursuivre la ligne castriste, mais plusieurs observateurs sont de l’avis que Raoul, qui conservera sa chefferie du Parti communiste, gardera les rênes du pouvoir dix ans après avoir remplacé son frère à la présidence.

En attendant rien pour encourager les réformes économiques dont le pays a tant besoin, puisque des mesures annoncées en décembre  allaient dans le sens contraire, selon certains observateurs. “Les mesures économiques annoncées suggèrent un ralentissement des réformes économiques entrées en vigueur entre 2010 et 2016,” fait remarquer Michael Bustamante de la Florida international university.

En plus d’avoir souffert après le passage d'un ouragan en 2017, qui explique selon le pouvoir le délai de la transition, le pays doit composer avec la baisse de l’aide vénézuélienne, en raison de la crise que traverse cet autre pays, ainsi que la ligne dure de Washington, qui a posé le frein sur les projets d’ouverture de la présidence Obama.

Aussi les tensions sont elles remontées d'un cran après une série de mystérieuses attaques contre des diplomates américains et canadiens. Entre fin 2016 et fin 2017 quelques 22 envoyés américains avaient subi des lésions dont des pertes d’audition, des vertiges et des maux de tête.

La cause n’a pas été identifiée mais Washington, après avoir rapatrié la moitié de son personnel, a expulsé 15 diplomates cubains “en raison de l’incapacité de Cuba de prendre les mesures appropriées pour protéger nos diplomates.” Les relations diplomatiques ont cependant été maintenues et ni le FBI ni les autorités canadiennes ne peuvent confirmer pour l'heure la thèse de l'attaque sonore des diplomates.

On n'écarte pas cependant que des «actes criminels» puissent être à l’origine des «symptômes inhabituels» ayant nécessité des soins médicaux pour huit membres de familles de diplomates canadiens en poste à Cuba. Pour ce qui est des expulsions américaines, La Havane n’y a vu que “la détérioration actuelle et probablement future des relations bilatérales” mais les trois pays travaillent encore étroitement pour élucier ce mystère digne d'un roman d'espionnage.

Le département d'Etat ne considère plus le pays comme terre interdite pour les touristes américains, mais tente de les dissuader de visiter l'île à 90 miles de la Floride. "Parce que la sécurité de notre personnel connait un risque et parce que nous sommes incapables d'en identifier la source, nous croyons que les citoyens américains font face à un risque et ne devraient pas voyager à Cuba," déclare un avertissement du département.

Le passage d’Irma a par ailleurs replongé dans le rouge une économie qui s’était remise de la récession et avait repris le chemin de la croissance, notamment en raison du tourisme. Mais le pays reste pauvre, la moyenne salariale étant d’environ 20$ par mois, ce qui oblige la plupart des citoyens d’arrondir les fins de mois en faisant du travail au noir, préférablement pour soutirer quelques dollars aux touristes.

En se rendant vers les fortifications du Moro très prisées par les touristes, un chauffeur de taxi montre les coins les moins reluisants de la grande capitale des Caraïbes en passant par le port, une zone qu’il se dit éviter à la tombée de la nuit, et emprunte des rues non pavées menant vers des taudis peu joyeux.

“Regardez ce quartier, dit-il en traversant le quartier de Casa Blanca, personne n’a d’eau ou d’électricité, c’est pas le beau paysage habituel des photos de La Havane.” Autre paysage peu joyeux, loin des plages et des hôtels réservés aux touristes, le triste zoo de La Havane, au sud du centre névralgique de la capitale.

Dès l’entrée un vacarme accueille les visiteurs, celui des zig zags de mini motos louées dans l’enceinte du zoo, affolant les bêtes des cages et espaces aux alentours. Le site offre le spectacle désolant de singes dans des cages trop petites et incapables de s’élancer, de rapaces nourris de carapaces pourries et puantes également incapables de voler bien loin et d’un hippopotame dans un étang si petit qu’il ne parvient pas à se submerger dans sa totalité pour fuir le chaos régnant.

Sur la berge, un crocodile circule entre les détritus, des cannettes de boisson ou des emballages quelconques jetés parmi les bêtes. Notre traitement de celles-ci n’est-il pas d’ailleurs le reflet de notre humanité? Malgré les recettes record du tourisme en 2017, environ 4,7 millions de visiteurs gonflant les caisses de l'état de l'ordre de 3 milliards de dollars, il faut penser que le zoo de la capitale ne figure pas dans la listes des priorités, les visiteurs étant majoritairement Cubains.

 D'ailleurs "les Canadiens ne viennent pas à La Havane, se désole un chauffeur de taxi, ils aiment rester sur leur plage à Varadero ou dans une autre zone touristique." Dans ce monde artificiel ils font le bonheur d'une minorité peu représentative de l'île.


The threat of nuclear war and rocket tests, trade disputes between North American neighbors, suspicions of Russian influence and even plans for space missions to the moon; sometimes it can feel as though entering 2018 is visiting a time capsule of the 1960s.

And nothing spells this like instructional videos on how to survive a nuclear attack, weeks after a North Korean rocket made plain that country’s strides in its nuclear program despite decades of sanctions and embargoes and weeks before South Korea hosts the Winter Olympics.

Ahead of the competition U.S. troops were carrying out drills for the eventuality of an attack during the Games but communities around the world were adapting to the new global threat stemming from Pyongyang. This month millions were to take part in evacuation drills simulating a North Korean nuclear attack in Tokyo.

Towns facing the Korean Peninsula have already conducted such drills with sirens sending citizens into shelters to seek cover. Japanese authorities also asked cities to identify all underground facilities able to shelter residents in case of attack. There as elsewhere residents are reluctant to think of the worst case scenarios of a nuclear strike, whether intentional or accidental.

“Evacuations are a sensible precaution that would help minimize casualties,” human rights campaigner Ken Kato told the Daily Telegraph. Though by some accounts Tokyo was growing as wary of Beijing as it is of Pyongyang in terms of fearing an attack.

In China an official newspaper published articles on how to cope with a nuclear attack, using cartoons offering advice on radiation exposure and what essential emergency kits to keep handy. Increasingly concerned by the the behaviour of its erratic neighbor, China has been listening to Washington’s contingencies during a possible crisis, which include the possibility of U.S. ground movement across the DMZ.

U.S. states and territories are also returning to their Cold War survival books, islands from Hawaii to Guam planning for possible emergencies, the latter providing survival videos in the event of an attack and asking viewers to pass them around for greater awareness. They include tips on how to build emergency kits filled with supplies such as non perishables, water reserves and important documents.

At the sound of an alarm residents are instructed to seek shelter in a concrete structure and keep away from windows and doors. Concerns have grown much further away. In Canada the CBC reports a plan was drafted by bureaucrats to open up bunkers on two military bases should the capital become “unviable” after an attack, this in order to ensure the “continuity of constitutional government“.

This harkens back to the construction of the Diefenbunker in the outskirts of Ottawa, now serving as Cold War museum. Experts are once again being instructed to think in Cold War terms in the event of a North Korean strike in Canada. Ottawa is however standing firm in its refusal to join the U.S. missile defence shield proposed by Washington years ago.

“After the Cold War was over we stopped thinking about those things,” notes defense expert Andrew Rasiulis. “It fell off the radar so to speak.” But others note civil preparedness would have to reach a whole new level as a nuclear blast would create an electromagnetic pulse that would down power grids over a vast area, shutting down everything from businesses to water plants.

Sean Maloney of the Royal Military College notes in a paper “critics  of civil defense programs argued that protecting government leaders  in shelters and not providing similar facilities to the population as a whole was undemocratic... designed to maintain the power elite.” Not helping calm tensions were reports Russia was building underground bunkers, not to serve as shelter but to house a growing nuclear arsenal, expecting to deploy some 8,000 warheads by 2026.

According to the Pentagon Russia is also fortifying command and control bunkers used during a nuclear conflict and possibly plans to blend conventional forces with nuclear arms, according to a US nuclear review. This was being released as the U.S. president indicated he sought “modernization and rehabili-tation” of his country’s national arsenal.

As the United Nations imposed new sanctions against the hermit kingdom a few days before Christmas, a new war of words erupted between Washington and Pyongyang, whose regime mocked the U.S. president shortly after Washington  expressed con-cerns North Korea could deploy chemical weapons on its missiles.

On new year's day, Kim Jong-Un reminded world leaders a nuclear launch button was "always on my table" and that the fact his rockets could reach the entire U.S. territory "is reality, not a threat," but added he was open to dialogue. The North Korean president also extended an olive branch to his southern neighbor, noting both countries had celebrations in store this year, the North's 70th anniversary and the South's Olympic Games: "We should melt the frozen North-South relations, thus adorning this meaningful year as a year to be specially recorded in the history of the nation," he said.

New year's messages have usually been an opportunity to calm tensions around the peninsula, and some note a small tweak from the old script. "North Korea usually ignores South Korea, maintaining the position that as a 'nuclear power' it will deal with the U.S. on its own," Daniel Bong, a research fellow at Yonsei Institute for North Korean Studies told the BBC. "It appears that by engaging the South, he hopes to create an estrangement between South Korea and the U.S."

The South has proposed talks in response, as both countries re-established a hotline to connect them. More importantly the U.S. and South Korea agreed to postpone the always controversial military drills in the region until after the Olympic Games, perhaps buying a few weeks of peace.


Nouvelle année, même crise. L’élection de décembre en Catalogne se voulait un certain retour à la normalité après les émotions de l’automne qui ont atteint leur paroxysme lorsque le gouvernement régional a été placé sous tutelle après un référendum controversé.

Mais la campagne a été tout sauf ordinaire, certains candidats nationalistes y participant à partir d’une cellule de prison ou alors qu’ils étaient en exil.

Aussi les résultats arrivaient-ils à refléter la complexité de la crise catalane: alors que les partis anti-independentistes capturaient la majorité des voix, ils restaient minoritaires au sein du parlement régional, ce qui a encouragé Carles Puidgemont, depuis son exil, à faire appel à un nouveau dialogue avec Madrid, celui qui n’avait pas eu lieu après le référendum.

L’unioniste du parti Ciudadanos voyait cependant la chose autrement, estimant que les séparatistes catalans “ne pourrons jamais parler au nom de toute la Catalogne.”

Le camp d’Ines Arrimadas venait de gagner 12 sièges de plus au parlement, le classant premier, mais ce grâce à la division du camp nationaliste; ces trois partis regroupant tout de même 70 des 135 sièges, leur donnant de quoi gouverner en tant de coalition. s’ils parviennent à s’entendre.

Car certains avaient regretté que Puidgemont n’ait pas déclaré l’indépendance dès le soir du référendum qui avait donné 90% au oui mais qui avait été boycotté par plusieurs citoyens outrés. Ce dernier est en revanche revenu à la charge: “la Catalogne veut être un état indépendant, dit-il, il s’agit là du désir des Catalans. Je crois que le plan du premier ministre ne fonctionne pas et nous devons trouver une autre manière de régler la crise”.

Selon le quotidien El Periodico “l’élection a démontré que la Catalogne est fortement divisée en deux blocs et qu’il n’y a pas de place pour les intermédiaires “. Pour la Commission européenne la situation n’avait pas changé et reste une question politique interne.

“Le résultat évident de cette élection c’est que la Catalogne n’est pas un bloc monolithique,” conclut le premier ministre Rajoy, qui a à nouveau rejeté tout  dialogue, sauf s’il engage le parti Ciudadanos.

Mais son propre parti a cependant été anéanti lors du vote régional. Puidgemont quant à lui reste ferme, une nouvelle entente doit être conclue entre Madrid et la Catalogne. “On doit changer la recette car elle ne fonctionne plus,” dit-il. Le dialogue de sourds se poursuit.

En on chiffre au milliard d'euros le coût de la crise en raison de la fuite des compagnies craintives et la baisse de la croissance. Ironique quand on pense que la puissance économique de la région avait gonflé l'argument en faveur de la séparation.

"La Catalogne avait d'habitude une croissance au dessus de la moyenne espagnole, fait remarquer le ministre des finances Luis de Guindos, mais au 4e quart elle est un fardeau."


In early December Vladimir Putin arguably held his first campaign reelection rally amid the troops in Syria as he announced Russia’s withdrawal from the war torn country, noting the troops had fought “brilliantly” and were returning home “victorious”.

His Mission Accomplished moment at least seemed to dispel US predictions the launch of his country’s military operations two years earlier would leave Moscow “stuck in quagmire” in a mission “doomed to fail.”

A century after the revolution projecting power works well to the domestic audience, an early lesson of the Crimean invasion.

With Mosul retaken from ISIS and the groups’ pockets in the country negligible, Moscow’s war on terror was certainly not unsuccessful, and the same could be said about its Mideast policy, looking to supply partners such as Turkey and Egypt with weaponry in an area visibly abandoned by Washington.

Moscow’s power also looks enhanced from the Russia meddling US scandal, despite Putin’s own downplaying of the collusion investigation as “delirium” and “madness” by opponents looking to target the US president.

If anything Putin’s own supportive words on Donald Trump did the latter no favours, praising “fairly serious achievements” in his first, year, this coming hours after suffering a major electoral defeat when Alabama elected its first Democrat senator in a quarter century.

In an ensuing call between the two, Trump thanked his counterpart for the remarks.  Putin also said he would run as an independent candidate for his fourth presidential bid, in order to rally the support of a number of parties, but added he “will strive for a balanced political system,” an interesting addition considering the fact that a number of political opponents have been arrested under his mandates, some even disappearing under mysterious circumstances.

It's hard to see how the coming election will do anything but rubber stamp the former spy chief. Also playing into the theme of being central to the world stage, Russia will host soccer's world cup in 2018, but one place where Russia will not be projecting its power will be in South Korea, where its Winter Olympic athletes have been prohibited from competing under its flag after the country’s national doping program was exposed and then panned by the IOC.


Fifty years after parts of Jerusalem and other lands were annexed by Israel following the six day Israeli Arab war, one could hardly argue that peace had come to the Middle East.

The last months had however seen a period of relative calm in Israeli-Arab relations after a history of terror and rocket attacks, violent intifadas and military retaliation. But Washington’s announ-cement it was moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to the ancient walled city shattered whatever calm there was ahead of Christmas and Hanukkah celebrations.

Arab leaders starting with the Palestinian leader warned the US administration of the  unnecessary tensions linked to the announcement while Turkey spoke of a red line being drawn in the sand, threatening its ties to Israel and igniting fire in a region constantly on a knife’s edge.

Stating the “whole world is against” the move, Arab leaders planned an emergency summit on the issue, as the region boils with the war in Yemen and tensions between Qatar and its Gulf neighbors. “When you look at a place on the verge of an explosion you do not introduce a flame,” said Hanan Ashrawi of the PLO. President Abbas said the move would “lead us into wars that will never end."

Curiously the White House hoped the move would jump start peace, an idea which created some rare Mideast unity as it was ridiculed as much in Tehran as it was in Arab capitals, all warning that fulfilling this campaign promise would have the opposite effect. Indeed within days Palestinian areas erupted in violent protest amid cries of new intifada while US embassies around the world stood under alert.

Jordan’s king had joined a chorus of world leaders stressing that the status of Jerusalem was key to any peace deal and stability in the region. The embassy itself would not be moved for months, being a delicate security and logistics operation. No other country has an embassy in Jerusalem, a reluctance tied to Mideast peace efforts and a consensus the city’s status should be decided as part of any peace deal, not before one is reached, which would risk influencing decision making.

Canada was one country which immediately indicated it would not be following America’s lead after a decision which further isolated Washington on the world stage. The relative peace was also shattened by the first rocket launch against Israel in four months as Palestinian activists organized “days of rage” this week.

In contrast Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu praised the announcement as "historic" and "courageous" and Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat welcomed it saying “the president is following his heart and history and saying and doing the right thing” in another sign of the Israeli Arab divide 70 years after the agreement which lead to partition of these lands.

The US president stressed “we are not taking any position on any final status issue including the specific boundaries“ which would be determined locally. Jerusalem is where the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, is located, he noted. “Peace is never beyond the grasp of those seeking to reach it,” he said, but to many this now seemed  more distant than ever.

Trump praised all three religions which consider the city sacred, oddly enough, as came into effect strict US immigration measures that were once described as a Muslim travel ban.   

Un drôle de parfum enrobe la politique libanaise, ou alors n’est-ce que la dose est passablement trop forte? Récemment le premier ministre Saad Hariri confirmait la suspension de sa démission surprise un mois plus tôt, qui avait outré la présidence libanaise, semé des inquiétudes de kidnapping par le régime saoudien et braqué les projecteurs sur la guerre froide que se disputent le royaume de Riyad et la république islamique. 

Hariri avait alors déclaré sa vie en danger, une constatation plutôt alarmante quand on pense au sort de son père en 2005, en sonné l’alarme sur l’influence déstabilisatrice du Hezbollah au pays. Le président Michel Aoun a plutôt accusé les Saoudiens de tenir le chef du gouvernement, qui a fait sa démission choc à Riyad, en otage, accusant le régime de manipulation et d’ingérence en politique libanaise.

C’est Aoun qui l’aurait “enjoint d’attendre” avant de présenter sa démission, “pour permettre davantage de consultations.” Passant par Paris, Hariri retourne alors à Beyrouth, accueilli par des supporters à l’occasion de la fête d’indépendance du petit pays. Le Liban reste le théâtre d’affrontements indirects entre Téhéran, dont le soutien du Hezbollah est féroce, et Riyad, les deux puissances étant déjà engagées dans la crise yéménite au sud de la péninsule d’Arabie.

Le ministre des affaires extérieures saoudien Adel Al-joubeir avait donné le ton des dernières semaines lors de la réunion extraordinaire récente de la Ligue arabe en affirmant que son pays ne resterait pas “les bras croisés” face à la politique “agressive” de Téhéran dans la région. Les deux pays ont rompu leurs relations en 2016.

Dans un pays qui en a tant besoin mais déchiré par les influences des voisins, le président Aoun a fait appel à l’unité lors des fêtes d’indépendance du 22 novembre, car la division  “provoquerait une destruction totale et n’épargnerait personne,” dit-il tout en accusant la Ligue arabe de “financer et d’entraîner des groupes terroristes”, risquant de plonger le pays du cèdre dans l’”embrasement.”

Les tensions entre Téhéran et Riyad se sont exacerbées début novembre quand un missile envoyé par les Houthis, alliés aux iraniens, a été intercepté près de la capitale saoudienne. Le ministre des affaires étrangères du Bahreïn a par ailleurs accusé le Hezbollah d’effectuer des opérations “non seulement à l’intérieur des frontières du pays mais il traverse toutes les frontières de nos nations. C’est une menace pour la sécurité nationale arabe.”

Selon le secrétaire général de la Ligue “les capitales arabes sont dans la mire des missiles balistiques de Téhéran,” ce que la république islamique nie. Le Bahreïn est particulièrement tourmenté par sa minorité chiite, qui réclame des réformes au sein du régime sunnite. En entrevue à Paris Match, Hariri répète ses avertissements sur le Hezbollah qui conserve au Liban "un rôle politique" et où il a des armes. "L'intérêt du Liban, dit-il, est de faire en sorte que ces armes ne soient pas utilisées ailleurs."

Parcontre il nie avoir été détenu par Riyad. "J'ai démissionné... avec l'intention de faire un choc positif." Malgré sa situation délicate "le Liban vit un petit miracle, dit-il. La région est ravagée par les affrontements confessionnels. Nous avons connu des tensions très fortes. Nous avons préféré calmer le jeu." Mais les risques persistent dit celui qui dit craindre un assassinat aux mains de Damas.


A president under arrest, soldiers in the streets while a man in military garb takes to the airwaves to urge calm, the scenario is not an unfamiliar one on the African continent. But where these scenes were taking place did cause some surprise this time.

After decades in power, ever since his country’s independence, Zimbabwe’s military placed the world's oldest head of state, 93-year-old Robert Mugabe, under house arrest as it seized power in a “bloodless correction” that suspended the long reign of the rebel leader who oversaw the end of white rule but refused to step down.

The military said it was purging the government of forces which it said had sought to corrupt those loyal to the revolution that brought independence in 1980. But local media said sources indicated the military singled out those loyal to the Mugabes.

Days after Mugabe fired his vice-president, who was known to be close to the military, to leave his wife as possible successor, soldiers took to the streets and placed the elderly president and a number of his ministers in custody, initially saying Mugabe himself wasn’t targeted but rather “criminals” around him. “We wish to make abundantly clear this is not a military takeover,” Maj-Gen.  Sibusiso Mayo took to the air saying, adding the president’s security “is guaranteed“.

He said the army would “pacify a degenerating ... situation” and promised “a return to normalcy”, but this is hardly how one would describe the sad state of the nation, facing hyperinflation and shortages which have sent its citizens looking beyond the borders for assistance and to get their hands on basic necessities.

The military had days earlier threatened to “step in” to calm rising political tensions, a statement the ruling ZANU-PF considered “treasonable conduct”, showing the first cracks between those in power and a military which until now had stayed loyal to the leadership. Some hoped this would mark a turning point after years of poverty, human rights violations and corruption under Mugabe.

Veterans groups once fiercely loyal to Mugabe now expressed hopes the military would make a “normal democracy “ out of the suffering country, which at one point saw hyper inflation hit 80 billion percent... before inflation was declared illegal, eliminating whatever worth the depleted local currency once had.

The economy grew by 0.5% last year but its underground market is thriving, the shadow economy representing about a third of the GDP; what was once the breadbasket of Africa decimated by farm seizures by so-called war veterans barely old enough to drive. But perhaps the existing and still abundant resources, including diamonds, could lead to future growth, with the right people in power, observers note.

Could this include longtime opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who just returned to Zimbabwe after going abroad for health reasons? The opposition is divided ahead of elections, possibly still scheduled for next year. Meanwhile ousted vice president Emmerson Mnan-gagwa also returned to Zimbabwe, possibly to seize power himself.

This is not without concern as he was behind bloody purges conducted by the regime in the 1980s. For now at least, there seemed to be a moment for celebration, as crowds took to the streets to party, not daring yet to look too far ahead.           


After decades of growing global emissions there had been a downward trend to the spiral the world had seemingly been intractably engulfed in these last few years, at least until a recent report registered a first rise in CO2 emissions in four years, largely due to China’s increase in coal use as that economy expanded again.

Even Beijing seemed surprised, having led new efforts to cut carbon emissions. So as the U.S. administration looked to a future based on so-called “clean coal” after pulling out of the Paris emissions agreement, and countries looked to work around Washington to keep global emissions targets alive in Bonn, some 15,000 scientists found it appropriate to update the state of the planet, 25 years after the first Rio warnings, and issue a global warning on the need to change the planet's course.

But was it too much or a much needed wake up call? A professor and graduate student from Oregon state university’s College of Forestry found that since those now distant alarm bells, more warning signs have emerged, something which drew attention after a year of terrible U.S. storms blamed on global warming.

William Ripple found that, since, the world had seen growing trends including a decline in freshwater availability, unsustainable marine fisheries, ocean dead zones, forest losses, dwindling biodiversity, climate change and the ever increasing population growth. They noted reduced ozone layer depletion, but these may be heading back up. “The trends are alarming,” Ripple told the BBC.
“And they speak for themselves.”

Response to their paper was over whelming. “The scientists around the world are very concerned about the state of the world, the environmental situation and climate change,” he said. “So this allows them to have a collective voice.” The report came as New Zealand was announcing it was introducing a new program tailored for climate change refugees and shortly after latest figures showed a 2% rise in CO2 emissions caused by humans globally.

Emissions were up 3.5% overall. While the number is subject to debate scientists say it points to a growth trend that threatens global emission targets. “With global CO2 emissions from human activities estimated at 41 billion tonnes for 2017 time is running out on our ability to keep our warming well below 2 degrees C, let alone 1.5C,” said prof. Corinne Le Quere from the university of East Anglia.

While coal use was up in China and the US, oil and gas was prompting major concerns. “There have been lots of ups and downs in the use of coal but in the background there has been no weakening in the use of oil and gas and that is quite worrisome,” Le Quere said. But some critics called the bell ringing irresponsible scaremongering.

"There's a small percentage that loves the crisis narrative," noted Erle Ellis of Maryland University, noting that the warning ignores increases in wealth, health and well-being of people over the years. Was the warning over the top? Perhaps, but climate change is increasingly hard to ignore.

Recently a major credit agency, Moody's, warned coastal communities of the United States, even in areas unaffected by this year's storms such as California and Maine, that they should prepare for climate change or risk losing access to cheap credit. "What we want people to realize is: If you're exposed, we know that. We're going to ask questions about what you're doing to mitigate that exposure," Lenny Jones of Moody's told Bloomberg. "That's taken into your credit ratings."

Among the indicators the agency uses to assess such exposure is the economic activity of coastal areas, damage from hurricanes and tornados and the presence of homes in a flood plain, making the costal states from Georgia to Mississippi the most at risk in the U.S. As sea levels rise from melting glaciers, by some eight inches in the last century, scientists note the major cities of the globe affected would depend on the location of those melts, from Pantagonia and Antarctica, to Greenland and Northern Canada.

Some are of such size, notably the glaciers of Pine Island Bay in Antarctica, that their catastrophic melt could add 11 feet to sea levels and submerge coastal cities everywhere. A rise of half that amount could displace millions worldwide and flood major cities from Shanghai to Mumbai and Ho Chi Minh City.

Closer to these parts, the melt of Greenland glaciers is viewed by some as the ground zero of climate change, the territory losing some 270 billion tons of ice every year. Bracing for the possible impact to coastal communities across the globe, cities gathered in Chicago this week to commit to fighting climate change. Among them, was a leader both familiar and sensitive to the issue, and the city.

"2015 was the warmest year on record until 2016 became the warmest on record. That tells us the climate is changing faster than our efforts to address it," Barack Obama told the summit. "And that's why I made climate change a priority while I was president," signing a Paris agreement quickly abandoned by his successor, but which local leaders across the country are trying to honour still, all the while the Environment Protection Agency was stripping references to climate change on its website.


Days after leader Carles Puigdemont addressed the Catalan assembly about the Oct. 1st referendum on separation a certain confusion set in. Had the wealthy eastern part of Spain broken away or not?

The separatist leader would soon find out the implications of the former to his own personal freedom. The question lingered until Puigdemont clarified the declaration was on hold so that dialogue could take place, dismaying nationalists and leaving European officials to heave a sight of relief.

But talks with Madrid did not ensue either in Spanish or Catalan, the break away region refusing to remove the threat of separation or call early elections. As Madrid prepared to invoke a rare constitutional article to seize control of Catalonia, the regional assembly declared independence, a move shortly followed by the Spanish senate's green light to take control of the region’s autonomous powers, the first time in four decades such direct rule measures were taken in Spain.

After weeks of pro and anti-independence marches never had the country’s solitudes appeared so divided. Had the methods of Catalonia ultimately achieved what Basque militants had failed to obtain during decades of bloody clashes? But as flag-waving nationalists  flooded the streets of Barcelona there was a sense independence was far from acquired.

The European Union reiterated its support for unity, refusing to talk directly with Catalonia but urging Madrid not to use violence to squash independence. Could violence engulf a crisis which until now had remained relatively peaceful? While rebellion and sedition charges were being prepared against Catalonia's leaders, Puigdemont urged "peace, civility and dignity".

In Madrid Prime Minister Rajoy called "for calm from all Spaniards," for other reasons, as "The rule of law will restore legality in Catalonia," adding that dismissing Puigdemont and his ministers would be his first order of business. Seventy Catalan parliamentarians had voted in favor of independence while 10 voted against and two handed in blank ballots of the assembly's 135 members.

"We can only hope the conflict will remain in the political realm," said hopefully former Catalan leader Joan Rigol I Roig. But Catalans were hardly unanimous, pro-union Catalans saying many had boycotted the independence referendum. Citizens party leader Carlos Carrioza charged that separatists had in fact staged a "coup against the democracy of Spain."

The central government would have none of that, ultimately dissolving the regional government and calling for December elections. Polls since the unilateral declaration of independence have shown some 55% of Catalans were opposed. Europe has seen a number of declarations of the sort since the fall of the Berlin wall, most hailing from former Soviet and Yugoslav republics.

But the Catalan declaration was a first in the bosom of the European Union and euro zone, causing the immediate rejection of EU partners from the United Kingdom and France, overseas to Canada and the United States. Understandably some Scottish officials were more welcoming, the region of Great Britain still weighing its decision whether or not to stage a new referendum after Brexit.

Polls have also shown Catalans to be in favor of the dissolution of the regional parliament, though there is no guarantee the election will form a pro-unity government. The nationalist parties have seen some division form amid the ranks since the referendum Madrid hopes could enable it to divide and conquer. It is  cautious not to seem too harsh after the violent incidents of the October 1 independence vote which raised concerns across the world.

The ousted leader slammed the central government's actions as "premeditated aggression" running "contrary to the expressed will of the citizens of our country, who know perfectly well that in a democracy it is parliaments that choose, or remove, presidents." He said the nationalist push would endure "without violence, insults, in an inclusive way, respecting people and symbols, opinions."

But some pro-unity Catalans say they have been bullied and shown lack of respect, choosing the days after the dissolution of the regional government to stage mass demonstrations in the streets of Barcelona. "The standoff has entered a new level of fragility, economic uncertainty and social unrest" stated a Stratfor analysis of events. "It is the first time since Spain's return to democracy in the late 1970s that Madrid has decided to take direct control of an autonomous region's institutions. Whatever happens next will be unprecedented."

Madrid for instance could have a hard time imposing its will on Catalonia's 200,000 civil servants, the analysis notes, though the central government will now be handling the purse strings as leverage. The uncertainty has affected the usually vibrant regional economy, some 1500 companies moving their legal seats out of Catalonia.

The Barcelona chamber of commerce also downgraded Catalonia's growth from 2.7% to 2.5% for 2018, something which will also have a national impact, showing the importance of a region creating 20% of Spain's wealth. Madrid hopes elections will solve the crisis and enable it to extricate itself from Catalonia gradually, leaving it with its usual powers, but this may take time. And some fear the arrest of a number of Catalan ministers, while a warrant is out for Puidgemont's, now in exile in Brussels, will only give nationalists a new boost ahead of the vote


Volonté d’ouverture réelle, manipulation politique ou un peu des deux? Les annonces choc émanant du royaume saoudien s’accumulent avec la succession  du roi bien en tête. Le fils héritier du monarque serait largement derrière les tractations des derniers mois, promettant une nouvelle ouverture et une version moins rigoureuse de l’Islam conservateur dont le pays est le champion.

Se détacher du pétrole, transformer l’Arabie Saou-dite en un centre d’affaires ou d'échange tout en opérant une brèche dans un système qui a laissé la femme au second plan, voilà à quoi s’est engagé le jeune prince favori, Mohammed bin Salman, principal conseillé du roi.

Celui-ci a longtemps favorisé l’épanouissement de la femme dans un pays encore dominé par le régime du gardien ou tuteur masculin, accueillant des femmes dans son orbite professionnel  et prônant le genre d’ouverture envers le droit de conduire et de participer à des événements sociaux en tant que spectatrice récemment approuvée aux plus hautes instances.

Le jeune Salman, qui mène également une chasse à la corruption, ne s’est pas gêné de s’en prendre à ses rivaux potentiels dans la course à la succession, une dizaine de jeunes princes, dont le milliardaire Alaweed bin Tatal, propriétaire richissime du Georges V à Paris, ainsi que quatre ministres et une dizaine d’anciens ministres, faisant l’objet d'enquête du comité anti corruption qu’il dirige.

La montée fulgurante de l’homme de 32 ans a divisé le royaume, certains approuvant les réformes en cours mais d’autres regrettant son goût du pouvoir malgré son manque d’expérience et jeune âge.

Celui-ci contrôle notamment la firme d’investissement Kingdom Holding ainsi qu’un nombre important des parts dans des compagnies internationales de renom bien branchées telles Apple et Twitter. Les annonces sur les femmes donnent suite aux réformes récentes, dont le droit au vote lors des élections municipales de 2015 et la participation des premières athlètes olympiques lors des Jeux de Londres.

Mais le système des gardiens reste bien en place, ce qui laisse les femmes sans l’autorisation de se marier ou de divorcer, même de voyager, sans l’aval d’un gardien familial masculin, parmi les nom-breuses autres restrictions liées à leur sexe. Puis les annonces récentes se font sur fond d'arrestations de critiques du régime, dont des blogueurs ou utilisateurs de médias sociaux, dont Twitter, défavorables au pouvoir.

Quant aux 200 personnes interrogées ou détenues en lien avec la corruption, la prison est plutôt de leur goût, soit le Ritz Carlton de Riyad. Fin octobre, en dévoilant des plans de mégaprojet bien saoudien sur la mer Rouge, le jeune Salman promet une Arabie “modérée “ en rupture avec la traditionnelle version rigoriste de l’Islam, dont le pays abrite les plus importants lieux saints.

“Nous n’allons pas passer 30 ans de plus de notre vie à nous accommoder d’idées extrémistes et nous allons les détruire maintenant,” déclarait-il sous les applaudissements, promet-tant un Islam “tolérant et ouvert sur le monde et toutes les autres religions” prêt même à commencer à approuver des visas pour touristes.


La peste, ce fléau historique responsable de la mort de plus de 50 millions de personnes en Europe au 14e siècle, c’est une maladie dont l’éclosion est pourtant  saisonnière à Madagascar, ile d’écologie exceptionnelle.

Mais l’actuelle saison de cette maladie désormais curable a vu des cas se répandre à l’extérieur des régions ordinairement touchées, assez pour mobiliser une Organisation internationale de la santé préoccupée par le risque d’exportation en Afrique orientale et ailleurs.

Plus de 2000 cas de peste pulmonaire ont été enregistrés au cours des dernières semaines, faisant de l’éclosion la pire du genre en un demi siècle. La propagation par la voie des airs en a fait un fléau particulièrement mortel et dur à combattre sur cette île relative-ment pauvre du continent africain.

L’explosion du nombre de cas d’une proportion de 37% en cinq jours a particulièrement alarmé les experts en matière de santé et sonné l’alerte chez les pays avoisinnants, de l’Afrique du sud au Kenya et de la Réunion aux Comores. Deux tiers des cas auraient été propagés par la voie des airs, soit l’éternuement ou le crachat. Aggravant l’éclosion, les célébrations des jours des morts qui ont causé plusieurs rassemblements importants.

Certains dansent ou paradent alors avec le corps de leurs proches lors de ces cérémonies macabres, une pratique désormais proscrite par les autorités. “Dans ce genre de cas on oublie vite les précautions en matière de santé,” fait remarquer Panu Saaristo de la Croix Rouge. L’OMS se console cependant du nombre décroissant de cas dans certaines régions du pays, mais seul un quart de l'île a été épargné jusqu'à présent.

On parvient mal à trouver la raison de la gravité de l’éclosion cette année mais certains médias pointaient du doigt les incendies forestiers et la fuite des rats vers les localités touchées. D’autres blâment les événements météorologiques. Selon l’OMS l’éclosion de cette année est particulièrement sévère, ayant fait plus de 160 morts,  et frappe cinq mois avant la fin de la saison pendant laquelle la peste fait ordinairement des victimes.

Traitée rapidement, la peste, qu’elle soit bubonique ou pulmonaire, est curable si “une antibiothérapie courante” est administrée dès les premiers signes. L’OMS a ainsi précipité 1,2 millions de doses antibiotiques vers l’ile et débloqué 1,5 millions $ de fonds d’urgence, mais dit nécessiter 5,5 millions $ pour pouvoir riposter à la flambée des cas.

L'organisation doit également combattre une autre maladie dans la région, sans remède celle-là, soit la fièvre de Marburg, aux symptômes terriblement similaires à ceux de l'ébola dont se remet à peine l'Afrique de l'ouest. Cette maladie tue environ 88% des personnes touchées, les premiers cas ayant fait des victimes en Ouganda.

Le risque de propagation y est important, notamment parce que les personnes atteintes avaient été en contact avec plusieurs autres personnes, mais aussi parce que les cas avaient lieu près de la frontière kenyane.

«Ce n’est pas la première fois que nous avons une flambée de cas, note la ministre de la santé ougandaise. Ce n’est pas la dernière fois. Parce que l’Ouganda se trouve dans la ceinture de la méningite, de la fièvre jaune, d’ébola. Nous avons les réservoirs de ce virus dans le pays."


While the sequel is rarely as good as the original, it can yield surprises. One year after the Panama papers lead to the ouster of leaders in Iceland and Pakistan, the leak of 13.4 million financial records of wealthy leaders and businessmen who placed assets in offshore banks has exposed ties between Russia and the current U.S. commerce secretary, placed the spotlight on the Canadian prime minister's top fundraiser and even exposed the Queen's offshore interests, to mention just some of about 120 leaders from around the world.

F1 champ Hamilton was also singled out for saving taxes by registering his Bombardier private jet in the Isle of Man while the Montreal Canadiens set up a pair of trusts in Bermuda according to leaked documents of Appelby, a firm which specialized in such offshore deals.

The Habs and businessman Stephen Bronfman issued denials following the leaks, which also revealed that a decade ago Queen Elizabeth’s estate invested in a Cayman Islands fund. Other royals snagged in the spotlight include Jordan’s queen Noor, while a myriad of foreign officials, from Uganda’s foreign minister to Brazil’s ex finance minister, also deserved their chapter in the voluminous financial paperwork dump.

The alleged ties of key associates of the U.S. president with offshore accounts proved particularly concerning in Washington amid ongoing allegations of Russian collusion. The commerce secretary used “Cayman Islands entities to maintain a financial stake in Navigator Holding,” the International consortium of investigative journalists found, noting the shipping company has “top clients that include Kremlin-linked energy firm Sibur,” partly owned by Putin’s son in law.

The company has “crony connections” claims Russia expert and former State Department official Daniel Fried. Meanwhile the Bronfman revelations come at a time the Canadian government is accused by the political opposition of being too chummy with rich friends and donors while failing to act against tax evasion but sheltering friends of the ruling Liberals.

“We are fully committed to fighting tax evasion and tax avoidance,” Justin Trudeau said in light of the allegations, adding the Canada Revenue Agency is “reviewing links to Canadian entities and will take every appropriate action.” He however elicited much criticism saying he found Bronfman's justifications acceptable.

This is the latest controversy involving the prime minister's rich friends to land him in trouble, starting with his Christmas vacation to the Aga Khan's private island a year after his 2015 election. Corporate entities have not been spared by the so-called Paradise papers, companies like Apple, Uber and Nike being listed as finding tax havens, the first to the tune of $252 billion, an amount it moved from tax-friendly Ireland to the island of Jersey when the former conducted tax reforms.

Such Channel islands have featured as prominently as their well known Caribbean tax-evasion equivalents in the documents, the Isle of Man serving to save tax expenses for everything from that jet purchase to transactions by a Canadian mining company operating in Africa but registered in Whitehorse.

While such holdings are not always ethical, the journalism consortium reminded readers it “does not suggest or imply that any persons, companies or other entities haven broken the law” by publishing the documents. But coming days after the first indictments in the American inquiry on Russian influence and as the government in Ottawa dealt with controversy over the finance minister's foreign holdings, the money trail has raised embarrassing ques-tions in a number of countries.

Maltese prime minister Joseph Muscat was another leader also quick to state that “no proof of any illegal or irregular circum-stances has emerged,” after revelations in the Paradise papers that his island has been a popular destination for Azeri money. But Malta is still stirred by the recent assassination of an investigative journalist who was in part looking into Muscat’s wife, whose name appeared in the Panama papers. While the leader and his wife denied any wrongdoing, the family of the late Daphne Galicia has been vocal asking for Muscat’s resignation and institutional change.

Tax evading schemes in Malta and the Isle if Man are also starting to gather scrutiny at the European Commission, concerned some of their regulations may be contravening continental tax laws. The EU's finance chief condemned tax evaders as "vampires" and said institutions had to adapt to the latest schemes.

“These aggressive tax planning optimisation schemes, many of them appear to be completely legal. So we have to respond on the legal front by establishing a new legal framework. If this is legal, as many people claim, then we need to change the law,” said Pierre Moscovici. “Trans-parency is the first weapon in our armoury. It’s the one that will allow us to stop a culture of secrecy, and a feeling of impunity of people who are carrying out tax avoidance."


Après le grand Timonier le 'ti monier? En fait c’est au même titre que l’auteur du grand pas en avant lui-même, Mao tsé-toung, que le président chinois Xi Jinping a été élevé lorsque son nom a été inscrit dans la charte du Parti communiste chinois lors du congrès du grand parti de l’empire du milieu.

Au courant de celui-ci plus de 2300 délégués ont approuvé à l’unanimité l’inclusion dans la charte du parti « de la pensée XI Jiping du socialisme à la chinoise de la nouvelle ère », un geste qui n’avait pas été fait envers ses prédécesseurs Jiang Zémin et Hu Jintao.

«cela conférera à Xi une autorité extra-ordinaire, note le politologue Willy Lam, de l’université chinoise de Hong Kong, il pourrait être comme lui: dirigeant à vie aussi longtemps qu’il est en bonne santé ». Pour l’heure son mandat de cinq ans a été renouvelé mais se retrouve désormais entre ses mains le choix de la succession.

Si le titre est déjà quelquechose il faut ajouter le fait qu’il a été décerné après peu d’années a la barre. « La tradition en Chine veut que l’empereur soit aussi le professeur, le maître à penser, explique à l’AFP le politologue Hu Xingdou, Xi y est arrivé dès la fin de son premier mandat, c’est rare dans notre histoire. »

Certes des défis guettent l’empereur, alors que le pays se dirige vers une période de ralentissement économique relatif mais une expansion de son influence internationale. Or malgré tous ses pouvoirs Washington est là pour lui demander de veiller à son voisinage et dompter l’incontrôlable voisin nord coréen.

Mais dans cette pensée à présent gravée dans le roc du panthéon des plus grands dirigeants chinois, Xi voit grand, notamment une «grande renaissance de la nation », comme un autre bond, et l’engagement, à temps pour le centenaire de 2049, de constituer une armée « de premier rang mondial » pour la postérité.

Au compte des effectifs ont y est déjà mais il s’agit de dompter cette technologie qui laisse le rival  américain seul sur son trône, le genre de technologie qui ne passe pas par les usines chinoises. Xi a d’ailleurs veillé sur la révision de cette force de  deux millions d’âmes alors que le pays s’imposait dans la mer de Chine.

L’occasion est d’ailleurs bonne d’agir sur une scène internationale délaissée par les États-Unis et d’y occuper « une place de choix » en « posant les règles en affaires mondiales ». Et sur le terroir qui dit pouvoir suprême dit interdiction de remettre en question la direction communiste du pays, et de moins en moins, celle de son président.

Celui-ci a d’ailleurs resserré sa poigne sur le pays, nettoyé son propre milieu en éliminant des dirigeants haut placés lors de sa campagne anti corruption et poursuivi les atteintes à la liberté d'expression, ce «socialisme à la sauce chinoise d’une nouvelle ère » qui peut être servie aux convives à titre de «choix nouveau pour d’autres pays ».

Mais Lam n’y voit qu’«un retour à la direction unique » plutôt qu’une approche collégiale, selon lui  «un pas en arrière » plutôt qu'un bond en avant pour faire progresser l'empire du milieu au 21ème siècle.      


Ils sont de retour. En 2014 la place centrale devant le parlement de Kiev était transformée en camp de manifestants, protégeant le gouvernement après les éclats meurtriers qui avaient évincé le président pro-russe qui a osé tourner les armes contre le peuple.

Après l’annexion de la Crimée et même l’élection du président pro-européen Poroshenko, ils restaient en place derrière leurs barricades, jusqu’au moment où on leur a laissé savoir que c’en était assez.

Depuis les tentes ont refait leur apparition ainsi que les manifestations, contre Poroshenko cette fois, lui donnant le choix de respecter ses promesses de lutter contre la corruption ou de décamper à son tour. Le 18 octobre des éclats avec la police se sont soldés par  une dizaine d’arrestations.

Quelques heures plus tard les manifestants étaient relâchés et allaient rejoindre leurs confrères dans leur camp, promettant d’y rester jusqu’à ce que le gouvernement ne prenne des mesures contre cet ancien fléau qui survit aux gouvernements successifs et ignore la couleur du parti. Avec leur cuisine communautaire et leurs feux de poubelle, les manifestants reprenaient la place du parlement en lui redonnant des airs de révolte.

« Poroshenko a ignoré les demandes du peuple en matière de mesures anti corruption, » souligne Serhiy Leshchenko, parmi eux. Malgré le rapport déséquilibré des forces la police refuse d’évacuer le camp sur ce site symbolique de la petite révolution de 2014. On ne veut pas répéter les « vieilles erreurs » d’il y a trois ans, lors des événements qui firent 100 morts.

Il s’agit après tout d’un geste propre « à la culture politique ukrainienne » rappelle Leschenko, et constitue « le seul moyen de se faire entendre », des demandes d’établir des tribunaux spéciaux anti corruption et d’abandon de l’immunité parlementaire.

Parmi les manifestants, l’ancien président géorgien Mikheil Saakashvili, gouverneur d’Odessa Oblast jusqu’il y a un an lorsqu’il quitta son poste, accusant Poroshenko de donner libre cours à la corruption dans sa région. Il a depuis perdu sa nationalité ukrainienne, ce qui, après avoir perdu sa nationalité géorgienne, le laisse sans patrie.

Il mène cependant une guerre sans relâche contre la corruption en lançant un nouveau parti. Mais l’Ukraine lui a nié le statut de réfugié peu après avoir présenté son «plan pour sauver l’Ukraine » qui vise notamment la corruption mais également le système de santé et la création d’une armée de réservistes.

Le pays reste encore en état de guerre dans sa région orientale, alors que des éclats viennent périodiquement ébranler les autres régions du pays, et même la capitale parfois. La semaine dernière Kiev pointait Moscou du doigt après une explosion qui a fait deux morts à l'extérieur d'un bureau de télévision, et blessé le parlementaire Ihor Mosiychuk, un membre nationaliste de l'opposition.

En juillet le journaliste d'enquête Pavel Sheremet était tué lors de l'explosion d'une auto piégée. Un attentat qui ne serait pas si déplacé dans la Russie de Poutine. L'ombre du grand voisin plane encore sur le pays.


If this isn't war, what must that be like? The question resonates in the aftermath of the deadliest bombing in Somalia’s bloody history, which claimed over 350 lives and left dozens of others unaccounted for. Sadly it wasn't the latest attack of the sort. But after years of unrelenting violence that mid October blast was so shocking it sent thousands to the tense streets in protest.

The country's beleaguered president said the nation in the Horn of Africa had to prepare for a "state of war "  a notion which may have lost its meaning. New U.S. assisted military offensives would target the suspected insurgents, al Shabab jihadists, Washington having  declared part of the country a zone for drone operations earlier this year.

The effectiveness of such offensives has come into question, as well as that of US intelligence on the continent, or lack thereof, after half a dozen US soldiers were killed in a Niger mission recently. Would the spectre of 1993 reappear if Washington adds to the 400 troops already in Somalia to help train local forces?

Military missions have been increased since the election of a Somali American president in February in an imperfect election, but the results are visibly all but conclusive, as jihadists continue to target both military and civilians. The new leadership has also been unable to prevent pirates working off the Somali coast from resuming their attacks on ships travelling through the strategic waterways, a resumption of activities some blamed on illegal fishing and others on the country's famine.

Others see dwindling vigilance by maritimers as a culprit, coupled with the lack of onshore resources to end the attacks. "We have been relying on offshore containment, but the best way to combat piracy is through onshore solutions," says Dr. Afyare Elmi of Qatar University. "The best way is to invest in the national government, to build capacity at national level."

The U.S. carried its latest drone strikes in the country following the Mogadishu attack. This week it went further by launching its first air strikes there, but targeted ISIS after a New York lone wolf attack killed 8. But some local officials fear US military action may only be making matters worse.

They identified the man responsible for the Oct. 14 attack as a former soldier whose hometown was raided by Somali troops assisted by US special forces in a botched operation months ago which left 10 civilians killed, and said the bombing could have been an act of revenge.

This isn't uncommon according to a recent United Nations report, which states that in “a majority of cases, state action appears to be the primary factor finally pushing individuals into violent extremism in Africa”. The report interviewed hundreds of former militant fighters, 71% of whom said “government action”, including the “killing of a family member or friend” or “arrest of a family member or friend” prompted them to join a militant group.

While Al-Shabab has denied a role in the October 14 attack, perhaps shocked by its death toll, it hardly halted operations, claiming responsibility for two attacks in Mogadishu last week which killed two dozen people, one of them a regional security chief. The attack led to the sacking of police and intelligence chiefs at a time the two portfolios are key to the country's survival.

Over a quarter century after the fall of dictator Siad Barre the country remains a frail state hardly able to handle its own affairs. Officials now fear a 2020 calendar to withdraw some 22,000 African Union troops and turn the keys to Somali forces is very much in doubt.


Break-away referendums are tension-filled affairs, especially as they tend to let a minority decide on the future of an entire nation. Catalonia and Kurdistan were no different, the Spanish and Iraqi regions facing perhaps the most pressure of recent independence plebiscites, central authorities declaring them illegal.
The former saw preventive arrests and police interventions to block polling stations while the latter was able to proceed with the understanding it was non-binding, its organizers besieged by Baghdad and neighboring capitals threatening border actions and broken ties.

The Iraqi government asked local officials to yield control of the region’s airports ahead of the vote while airlines stopped servicing them. In the end the Kurds voted in favor overwhelmingly, which organizers said would bolster the autonomous region’s hand dealing with Baghdad. The numbers were convincing with 92% of participants voting yes, a score immediately met with resistance in the Iraqi capital where Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called for the referendum to be annulled and a new dialogue.

Talks would follow, the regional government ruled, but only to negotiate the region’s eventual break up. The vote shook oil prices amid threats of a blockade by neighbors of the Kurdish region home to rich oil fields. "Let’s engage in serious dialogue and become good neighbors," declared Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani. But Baghdad suspended lawmakers who voted yes in the referendum.

Break ups are hardly ever peaceful like the velvet revolution, the independence of South Sudan and Eritrea only bringing war with their former citizens. While the scenario seems much less likely in Spain, the violence of Madrid’s preventive measures caused alarm there and in other countries, and sparked concerns this would only boost what was lukewarm support for independence. Rallies in Catalonia in the days leading to the vote condemned the rush by Madrid to send police to the region, a move leader Carles Puidgemont likened to Franco-style interference. 

"There’s a serious and worrying return to the fall of democracy in Spain and it's not just us who are realizing that,"  he said, deploring the arrival of ferries to accommodate the coming officers. "In the worst years of the ETA era you wouldn’t get such massive deployments. There’s no violence here." Sympathetic to the cause, Quebec nationalist and observer Gilbert Paquette condemned police action he said prevented Catalan civil servants from doing their jobs preparing ballots.

His province's legislature later passed a motion condemning Madrid's "authoritarian" measures. A dozen officials working in the election were arrested on the orders of a Barcelona judge days before the vote and Madrid threatened others with obscene fines. Paquette called Madrid’s actions that of "a regime of terror" whose actions will only "reinforce their convictions". In scenes reminiscent of the 1995 Quebec referendum, cities across Spain held flag-waving rallies in support of unity.

But at least the Quebec votes in 1980 and 1995 had been allowed to go forward, activists both for and against independence occupied schools and railed against Madrid because it sought to deny the vote altogether, leading to clashes on voting day which injured hundreds of people. Spanish authorities blasted Catalan officials as "irresponsible" for allowing the vote to go forward despite warnings, while Barcelona called police action unjustified violence.

Video showed Spanish police smashing into polling stations to remove ballots and voters, pulling some participants by the hair. While Madrid denied the legitimacy of the referendum, calling it a "mockery" of democracy, Puidgemont said Sunday Catalonia had "won the right to statehood" after the voters who did manage to cast ballots overwhelmingly endorsed independence, 90% voting in favor.

"With this day of hope and suffering, the citizens of Catalonia have won the right to an independent state in the form a republic," he said, adding later that Catalonia didn't want "a traumatic break" with the rest of the country. The dueling interpretations, and calls for European mediation by Puidgemont, promised tense weeks ahead as 40 trade unions and Catalan associations carried out a region-wide strike this week to denounce "the grave violation of rights and freedoms," bringing tens of thousands to the streets.

Spain's King Felipe addressed the nation about the crisis but hardly offered mediation, saying the referendum's organizers had put themselves "outside the law", and failing to mention the violence. Catalan officials said they were disappointed the monarch did little more than toe the government line. While officials from Canada to the European Union limited their commentary to the fact it was an internal matter, they expressed concern about the often violent nature of police action, which used rubber bullets, and hoped dialogue would ensue.

"We call on all relevant players to now move very swiftly from confrontation to dialogue," the European Commission said in a statement. "Violence can never be an instrument in politics." But EU officials also found the Catalan vote "not legal" while Spain's justice minister warned that any declaration of independence could give Madrid the right to suspend the Catalan government's authority. But Catalan officials, invigorated by the strong support and angered by the violence, remained undaunted, leaving Europe with its latest crisis on its hands.


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