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

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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.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Gov’t Promises to Mend Relationship with NGOs

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The Minister for Internal Affairs General Jeje Odongo has dismissed claims that Government is currently not at the best of terms with Non-Governmental Organizations and embarked on policies aimed at suppressing them.

Speaking at the launch of a book titled ‘Uganda’s Civil Society’ in Kampala, Odongo noted that while some things might not have moved on well between Government and some NGOs, the former is willing to address these issues so that the two parties can continue operating hand in hand.

“I would like to assure you that Government in the process of regulating this field through the NGO bureau. Government doesn’t have any sinister motives but is focused on improving the sector.”

As the line minister, Odongo vowed to ensure that the relationship between Government and these Organizations is improved to the extent that where there is a need, government will be ready to come in and support them.

The new book, which contains crucial information about these bodies, Odongo said, will be of great importance to various stake holders.

Stephen Okello the head of the NGO Bureau applauded the author and financer of this publication, saying it had come at a time when the country lacks a one stop center as far as operations of NGOs in the country is concerned.

“This book is very important because it’s going to spark off discussions on issues affecting CSOs; therefore, I ask everyone to spare time and read it.”

Joel Senyonyi the spokesperson for National Unity Platform (NUP) asked Government to stop referring to its critiques as enemies of the state or Agents of Europeans because they do all this as a result of love for their nation.

Sarah Bireete the Executive Director for Center for Constitutional Governance (CCG) noted that the Government is more comfortable with them sensitizing people on Sanitation matters than issue of Governance issues.

The post Gov’t Promises to Mend Relationship with NGOs first appeared on ChimpReports.



Source – chimpreports.com

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Taking a knee, lifting fist to be punished at Tokyo 2020 Olympics | Black Lives Matter News

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Against the backdrop of the BLM movement protesting racial injustice, calls increased for change to IOC rule.

Taking a knee during the Tokyo Olympics or lifting a fist in support of racial equality will be punished as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) maintained its ban on athletes’ protests inside stadiums, at ceremonies and on podiums.

The IOC’s Rule 50 forbids any kind of “demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda” in venues and any other Olympic area and the Games body concluded the rule should be maintained following an athlete consultation.

Against the backdrop of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement against racial injustice, calls have increased in recent months for a change to that rule that would allow athletes to protest.

Some international federation chiefs, including World Athletics’ President Sebastian Coe, have said athletes should have the right to make gestures of political protest during the Games.

The IOC’s Athletes’ Commission chief Kirsty Coventry, who led a review of the rule, said 70 percent of the athletes consulted were against any protests within the fields of play or the podiums.

“I would not want something to distract from my competition and take away from that. That is how I still feel today,” Coventry, a former Olympic swimming champion for Zimbabwe, said in an online presentation of the Rule 50 consultation results.

Coventry said there were a series of recommendations approved by the IOC’s Executive Board on Wednesday, including providing clarity on sanctions, more information about Rule 50, a change of wording of the Olympic Oath with messages on inclusion, and producing athlete apparel with inclusive messaging.

The IOC’s recommendations are the result of a consultation process that started in June 2020 and involved more than 3,500 athletes.

The Tokyo Olympics, delayed by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, kicks off on July 23.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Terego headteacher arrested over defiling own daughter

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The headteacher of Yole primary school in Tergo district, northern Uganda has been arrested on allegations of defiling and battering his own daughter. 

Tom Amayo was arrested on Tuesday by officers from Katrini police post following a tip-off by the victim’s uncles where she had sought refuge. 

According to preliminary police findings, the suspect committed the offence several times at his residence in the staff quarters where has been living with the victim. Agnes Anyu, the Terego district police commander, says that they have charged the suspect rape, defilement and torture.

Geoffrey Aziz, a member of Yole primary school management committee told URN that they are in the process of holding an emergency meeting following the arrest of the headteacher to forge away forward to allow the school to run normally. 



Source – observer.ug

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