And all that news! (19/02/2014)

So allow me to review last month and a bit of this month.

Doing the dance of the seven AKs

Doing the dance of the nine AKs. Much sexier than seven veils.

Opening light as always, who knows what the devil is going on in South Sudan and the Central African Republic? Well I’ll tell you, everyone’s favourite word – genocide! In South Sudan, we have the Dinka and Nuer peoples turning the political into the personal rather spectacularly. President Salva Kiir is Dinka while opposition leader Riek Machar is Nuer. What began as a struggle between loyalists and mutineers in the army at Juba has spiralled out of all control into a civil war between the Dinka and Nuer; Machar’s rebels consist of various militias, warlord and other such disparate groups. Nuer rebels have been on the backfoot thanks to Ugandan and Sudanese support for Kiir’s government. With the rainy season coming when the only fighting either side will do is with their disposable ponchos, Kiir was determined to gain a decisive lead until a ceasefire was declared about two weeks ago. 863,000 people have been displaced by what started as a political tiff and could end in the death of the world’s newest country. Following what were thought to be successful ceasefire negotiations in Addis Adaba, fighting has blossomed in the state of Malakal in South Sudan. Another endless civil war might be the fate of this fresh African nation – which was never in a great situation to begin with.

Act cool, we're totally not Muslim.

Act cool, we’re totally not Muslim.

In the Central African Republic, those age old chums Christianity and Islam are at it again in what I can only describe as a seesaw of horror that started as a slow-motion 100 car humanitarian pile-up. The Muslim Seleka went galumphing into power in March 2013 after an almighty armed offensive, ushering in ten months of wickedness. Following their ouster this year, those Christians who had been brutalised by the regime have embarked on a campaign of retribution against every Muslim in the country. Some of these are anti-balaka (anti-machete, an irony considering all of the severed bits of people on their belts) groups who have not stopped the months of religious violence instigated by the Seleka but instead vow terrible vengeance, thus a refugee crisis has exploded with 20% of the population having run for the hills – some into neighbouring states. The long and short of it is that the international community must act robustly or the Central African Republic will become a state devoid of civilians and inhabited by murderous mobs.

Holy shit! Okay, easy, look away from the fire then no one will know I started it...

Holy shit! Okay, easy, look away from the fire then no one will know I started it…

Ukraine is caught between two powers. If Theo Kojak was to go to Kiev and try his catchphrase of “Who loves ya baby?” he might be met with a) a Molotov cocktail, b) a riot shield to the face, or c) a confused but enraged roar of “We don’t fucking know!” (in Ukrainian of course, which Google Translate assures me is “My ne trakhat’ nou!”).   After President Yanukovych’s rejection of a trade deal in November 2013, the country has experienced the biggest protests since 2004’s Orange Revolution. A hasty anti-protest law in the middle of January 2014 did nothing to abate protesters, if anything it just pissed them off. Thousands have occupied Kiev’s Independence Square for months and will continue to do so until the constitution is changed, the government is altered and the country enters its EU trade agreement and Russia stops meddling in Ukraine’s affairs so that it can pull closer to the EU. Easy enough then. Yanukovych has been forced to do a U-turn on the anti-protests laws but this is not enough, the opposition wants him gone – the leaders of which are Arseniy Yatsenyuk, boxing superstar Vitali Klitschko and Oleh Tiahnybok. The EU and its US backers are all for former Soviet Bloc countries coming into the fold, and it seems the citizens of such countries are for it too but Yanukovych and other corrupt politicians like him are too in love with Vladimir Putin’s pockets. After the most violent clashes yesterday left 25 police and protesters dead, there appears to be only escalation on the cards unless the President caves entirely. One wonders, will Moscow allow him to?

A bit of rain never hurt an economy.

A bit of rain never hurt an economy.

On to some more lighthearted news, Britain has had the wettest winter since records began; always a terribly vague phrase but that’s essentially for a century. Since St Jude’s storm in December, we have had 505.84mm of rainfall and a maximum wind gust in December of 142mph (though that was on the Scottish Highlands so they might not have noticed the difference). The Somerset Levels became the English Everglades and Sussex could boast waterfront properties simply everywhere. During the stormy crisis, the Environment Agency and its director experienced the wrath of anyone who had to bail out their lounge this winter or chase the ducks from inside the businesses they had taken years to build up. David Cameron hasn’t escaped criticism either, with his approval ratings taking a nosedive every day the water sat on the Levels (and everywhere else for that matter). This gave Ed Miliband a chance to play politics by claiming this government is walking the country into an environmental crisis and that extreme weather actually poses a national security threat. He went so far as to fire up ever-present worries over climate change. While I might not like his face, I am a firm proponent of the need to combat climate change. As I am not a politician but a commentator, I can firmly say to deny human involvement is the action of an idiot. I’m looking at you, most of the American (and some of the British) Right. In the aftermath of the floods, we are calculating the damage and realising just how vulnerable Britain is to “global weirding”.

To sign off, I will ask you to look up Florida’s Stand Your Ground laws. Then, discuss. Until I bother to write again…Go away.

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