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Belarusians can learn a lot from Armenia’s Velvet Revolution | Russia



In the last two weeks, tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in Belarus to protest against the widely disputed results of the country’s August 9 election, which handed President Alexander Lukashenko some 80 percent of the popular vote and a sixth term in office. A police crackdown on peaceful protesters in the days after the vote saw nearly 7,000 demonstrators arrested, and sparked allegations of abuse and torture at the hands of security services. The opposition candidate, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who refused to concede defeat against Lukashenko, was forced to flee the country two days after the election.

Lukashenko managed to remain in power for 26 years without facing a significant challenge to his authority by playing the West and Russia against each other. Despite this tactical jockeying, however, Lukashenko always stood closer to Russia, entering his country in Russia-led regional groupings. In 1999, when the then Russian President, Boris Yeltsin, was weak and his power was leaching away, Lukashenko even proposed to unify his country with Russia, with the hope that he would eventually emerge as the leader of the new union. The rise of Putin eliminated such hopes for Lukashenko, but the idea to merge Belarus and Russia remained under consideration. Indeed, Putin started pushing for a merger last year, partly as a way to sustain his own rule beyond 2024.

The Belarusian protesters are facing unique challenges, not only because they are revolting against a violent and highly authoritarian regime, but also because they are trying to trigger a democratic transition in a country placed firmly in Russia’s authoritarian security orbit. 

Among those with strong security and economic ties to Russia, Belarus is only the second state, after Armenia, where people have risen against their Kremlin-backed rulers. As such, Armenia’s “Velvet Revolution” in 2018, during which the masses successfully triggered a democratic transition through peaceful disobedience, offers a range of tactical lessons for both the opposition movement and the government in Belarus. 

Three key lessons emerged from Armenia’s democratic breakthrough.

First, the protesters in Armenia worked hard to keep the protests strictly local. They resisted attempts by the ruling forces to frame the protests as another Western-instigated “colour revolution”, which would have delegitimised the movement. To achieve a successful democratic breakthrough, the Belarusian opposition should mimic this approach, and capitalise on the grassroots nature of the protests. 

Second, the leader of Armenia’s protest movement, current Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyansignalled early, clearly and consistently that the movement, if successful, would not lead to a shift in foreign policy away from Russia. This messaging played an important role in keeping the Russian soldiers in their bases during the revolution. While Armenia’s security needs are quite different from those of Belarus, protest leaders in Minsk could also benefit from managing Russia’s threat perceptions. 

Third, Pashinyan held formal and informal negotiations with incumbent political forces from the very beginning. As a result, Armenia’s protest movement unfolded within an imperfect but,  nevertheless, constitutional order. This ensured some level of political stability, increased the perceived legitimacy of the protest movement and emboldened more people to take to the streets – a key marker of successful disobedience campaigns everywhere. 

In many respects, the movement in Belarus is similar to Armenia’s Velvet revolution of 2018. Just like Armenia, Belarus is a former Soviet nation that still has strong economic, political and social ties to Russia. Both countries are members of Russia-centric regional organisations such as the Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Eurasian Economic Union, and they are both economically reliant on Russia.

But there are also some significant differences between the ongoing protests in Belarus and the Velvet Revolution that took place in Armenia. 

Unlike Armenia, there is not a strong civil society in Belarus. In the post-Soviet era, Belarus has always been under a strict dictatorial regime while Armenia has been led by what could be described as “soft authoritarians”. This allowed Armenia’s civil society enough space to organise itself and consolidate a protest culture through a long string of public protests before an opening for democratic transition appeared in 2018. Such processes are only beginning in Belarus. 

But the protest movement in Belarus is perhaps in a better position than Armenia’s in a few important aspects – Belarus is not involved in an unresolved regional conflict. In the region, dictatorial regimes often use prolonged conflicts to create a false dichotomy between security and democracy, and silence opponents. This tactic was used by Armenia’s pre-revolution rulers for years and is currently being used in neighbouring Azerbaijan by Ilham Aliyev to silence opposition forces inside the country.  

It is not surprising, therefore, that Lukashenko is trying to contrive an external threat where there is none. He has claimed, inaccurately, that NATO forces are building up in Eastern Europe, attempting to portray the protest movement in Belarus as a threat to its, and Russia’s, security. 

Another advantage the pro-democracy movement in Belarus has over the one in Armenia is the democratic character of its immediate neighbourhood.  As I have written elsewhere, the extent of regional connectivity in Russia’s vicinities can make or break the Kremlin’s incursions into its “near abroad”, be they military or hybrid. The democratic consolidation in, and regional ties between, the Baltic states, therefore, is an obvious political asset for the pro-democracy movement in Belarus. Furthermore, Belarus also shares a border with Poland, and therefore the European Union.

This is in sharp contrast to Armenia which is surrounded by authoritarian states, the sole exception being Georgia to its north. The Armenian pro-democracy movement formed a democratic dyad with Georgia, which helped it constrain Russian involvement and complete its Velvet Revolution. Intervening in Belarus would be much more costly for Russia, given the regional resiliency around Belarus from the Baltics to Poland. And unlike in Armenia, Putin’s past attempt to formally unite Belarus with Russia created a backlash among the populace in Belarus, exposing the disingenuous nature of Putin’s claims of “protecting” Belarus’s security and independence. Russian intervention in the context of post-election protests can revive such fears and push more people into the streets. 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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Charles Mbire gains $1.2 million as stake in MTN Uganda rises above $51 million



Ugandan businessman and MTN Uganda Chairman Charles Mbire has seen the market value of his stake in MTN Uganda surge above $51 million in just two days, as the share price in the leading teleco company increased by a single digit.

The single-digit bump in the share price caused the market value of Mbire’s stake to gain UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million) in less than two days.

The million-dollar increase in the value of his stake came after Uganda’s largest telecom company delivered the country’s largest-ever IPO through the listing of 22.4 billion ordinary shares on the Uganda Securities Exchange (USE).

Upon completing the largest IPO in Uganda’s history, MTN Uganda raised a record UGX535 billion ($150.4 million) from the applications that it received for a total of 2.9 billion shares, including incentive shares.

As of press time, Dec. 7, shares in the company were trading at UGX204.95 ($0.0574), down six basis points from their opening price this morning.

Data gathered by Billionaires.Africa revealed that since the telecom company registered its shares on the Ugandan bourse on Mon., Dec. 6, its share price has increased by 2.5 percent from UGX200 ($0.056) to UGX204.95 ($0.0574) as of the time of writing, as retail investors sustained buying interest long after the public offering.

The increase in the company’s share price caused the market value of Mbire’s 3.98-percent stake to rise from UGX178.45 billion ($49.96 million) to UGX182.86 billion ($51.2 million).

In less than two days, his stake gained more than UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million).

In a statement after the successful listing of MTN Uganda’s shares, Mbire said the IPO shows the confidence that Ugandans and other investors have in the company, its brand and strategic intent.

“We commend all the regulators for their support in our work to become a USE-listed company and to comply in a timely manner with the listing provisions of the national telecommunications operators’ license,” he said.

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350 million (debt free).

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350. ( debt free).

He is into communications-revenue assurance-cement-distribution-oil services-real estate-oil exploration and logistics.

Source: Billionaires Africa

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2-year-old dies at Arua hospital as nurse demands Shs 210,000 bribe




A two-year-old child died at Arua Regional Referral hospital after a nurse, Paul Wamala demanded a bribe amounting to Shs 210,000 before carrying out an operation. 

The incident happened on Saturday, after Aron Nabil, a two-year-old child was referred to the hospital for an operation after he was diagnosed with intestinal obstruction, a medical emergency caused by a blockage that keeps food or liquid from passing through the small intestine or large intestine.

According to the relatives of the child, Wamala allegedly asked them to initially give him Shs 30,000 to buy medicines to commence the procedure. He however returned shortly asking for an additional Shs 180,000 from the relatives.

Emily Adiru, a resident of Osu cell, in Bazar Ward, Central Division, and a relative of the child says although they paid money to Wamala, he abandoned the child without carrying out the operation. According to Adiru, Wamala later refunded Shs 200,000 through mobile money, after she threatened to report him to the police.

“They told us this boy needs an operation which was supposed to be done in the morning on Sunday at around 7 am. They took him inside there, some doctor came from the theatre, he called one of us and said, we should pay Shs 70,000 for buying medicine to start the operation. We paid the Shs 30,000 [but] after paying the Shs 30,000, after some minutes, the same man came and opened the door and called us again, and told us we should pay another Shs 100,000. We also paid the Shs 100,000 and we thought it is finished. We were outside there waiting for our patient to come out [but] then this man came back again and said we should pay another Shs 80,000,” said Adiru.

Although the operation was later carried out after a 7-hour delay, the child didn’t make it, and relatives attribute the death to negligence. Miria Ahmed, a concerned resident wonders why such incidents have persisted at the facility which is supposed to service the citizens.

“Is the problem the hospital, is it the management or it is the human resource that is the problem in the hospital? A small child like this you demand Shs 210,000 for the operation? Well, if the money was taken and the operation is done, I would say anything bad but this money was taken and the small boy was abandoned in the theatre,” she said. 

When contacted Wamala refused to comment on the allegations. Dr Gilbert Aniku, the acting hospital director says that the hospital will issue an official statement later since consultations about the matter are ongoing.

Arua City resident district commissioner, Alice Akello has condemned the actions of the nurse saying she has ordered his arrest so as to set an example to the rest. The case has been reported to Arua regional referral hospital police post under SD reference No:05/30/05/2022.

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Mexican president’s Mayan Train dealt new legal setback | Tourism News




Activists say the planned tourist train will harm the wildlife and natural features of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been dealt the latest setback to an ambitious plan to create a tourist train to connect the country’s southern Yucatan Peninsula.

On Monday, a judge indefinitely suspended construction on a portion of the project, known as the Mayan Train, saying the plans currently do not comply “with the proceedings of the environmental impact evaluation”.

The ruling follows a legal challenge by activists who said they were concerned the 60km (37 mile) portion of the train that would connect the resorts of Playa del Carmen and Tulum would adversely affect the area’s wildlife, as well as its caves and water-filled sinkholes known as cenotes.

The original plan for the disputed section was for an overpass over a highway, but the route was modified early this year to go through jungle at ground level.

The federal judge cited the “imminent danger” of causing “irreversible damage” to ecosystems, according to one of the plaintiffs, the non-governmental group Defending the Right to a Healthy Environment. In a statement, the group said that authorities had failed to carry out the necessary environmental impact studies before starting construction of the section.

Lopez Obrador had announced the ambitious project in 2018, with construction beginning in 2020. The roughly 1,500km (930 mile) cargo and passenger rail loop was presented as a cornerstone of a wider plan to develop the poorer states and remote towns throughout the about 181,000sq km (70,000sq mile) Yucatan Peninsula.

The railway is set to connect Caribbean beach resorts with Mayan archaeological ruins, with authorities aiming to complete the project by the end of 2023. The plan is estimated to cost about $16bn.

The project has split communities across the region, with some welcoming the economic development and connectivity it would bring. Others, including some local Indigenous communities, have challenged the project, saying it could not only disrupt the migratory routes of endangered species, including jaguars, tapirs and ocelots, but could also potentially damage centuries-old Mayan archaeological sites.

The National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism, the government agency overseeing the project, has said that it expects to “overcome” the latest challenge and that work should continue after an environmental impact statement is finalised. It said the Environment Ministry was currently reviewing its environmental application for the project.

For his part, Lopez Obrador has insisted the railway will not have a significant environmental effect and has accused activists of being infiltrated by “impostors”.

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