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Abuse of power has become the norm in Moon’s South Korea | South Korea



Just four months after winning the April 15 general election by a landslide, and securing 176 seats in the 300-seat National Assembly, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his governing Democratic Party (DP) are faced with an alarming change in public sentiment.

Last month, for the first time since the 2016 political scandal that led to President Park Geun-hye’s removal from office, the approval rating of the main opposition People Power Party (PPP, formerly known as United Future Party) surpassed that of the DP. In an August 13 Realmeter poll, 36.5 percent of the respondents expressed support for the PPP, compared with just 33.4 percent for the DP. Public support for President Moon also plummeted in recent weeks, with an August 14 Gallup Korea survey putting his personal approval rating at 39 percent – his lowest since October 2019, when his close ally Justice Minister Cho Kuk was forced to step down amid corruption allegations

This drastic decline in public support for the president and the government illustrates not only the volatile nature of South Korea’s democracy, but also the growing backlash against their attempts to make abuse of power the new norm in the country. 

Indeed, since their stunning election victory in April, President Moon and his party have repeatedly undermined the rule of law, ignored the procedures put in place to ensure the separation of powers, and made controversial moves to further their populist agenda and help their allies escape accountability.

After winning the election with a margin unprecedented in South Korea’s democratic history, which enabled it to dominate all 17 standing committees of Parliament, the DP transformed the National Assembly into its own law-passing agency. It rammed through numerous contentious laws, without subcommittee review or any other consultative procedure required under the National Assembly Act. 

The governing party also railroaded a series of housing laws in an attempt to stabilise skyrocketing real estate prices in the Seoul metropolitan area, where half of the country’s population lives. The measures not only failed to bring the housing market under control, but also drew public anger, as they created more hurdles for middle-class first-time-buyers under the age of 40 – the main support group for the government. In July, as real estate prices in the country continued to rise, the Citizens’ Coalition for Economic Justice, an influential Seoul-based civic group, revealed that 42 governing party legislators elected in the April 15 parliamentary elections owned two or more houses, and made a considerable profit as a result of the soaring real estate prices. The revelation caused many to question the sincerity of the government’s pledge to resolve the housing crisis, and added weight to the accusations that President Moon and his party are using their dominance over the legislature to further their populist agenda and personal interests. 

Since the election, the DP government also made several moves to bring the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office (SPO) fully under its control.

President Moon had appointed Yoon Seok-youl as head of the SPO in July 2019 because of his proven record of going after the most powerful without hesitation. However, ever since taking office as prosecutor general, Yoon has become Moon’s “biggest headache” and rocked the government several times by relentlessly investigating allegations of abuse of power directed at the president’s top aides and high-level government officials. Yoon’s determination to get to the bottom of these allegations even led to him being seen as a potential future president.

In response, Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae embarked on a relentless campaign to isolate and silence Prosecutor General Yoon under the guise of “prosecution reform”. She assigned pro-government prosecutors to key posts while demoting those close to Yoon, who have been investigating the Cho Kuk scandal, and the government’s other alleged abuses of power, including the allegation that 13 Blue House top-aides and other high level officials unlawfully intervened in the 2018 Ulsan mayoral election to get Moon’s 30-year-old friend, Song Cheol-ho, elected. 

Choo’s reshuffle and recently unveiled plan to reorganise the SPO led to a backlash, however, with many prosecutors, both at the senior and junior levels, publicly criticising her plan as solely aimed at reducing Yoon’s authority. The public also seems to be concerned about the direction the DP government’s prosecution reforms appear to be taking. According to the third National Indicator Survey jointly conducted by four polling companies, only 32 percent of the population thinks the reform drive is “doing well”, while 52 percent believes it is now aimed solely at “taming the prosecution”. 

The government’s attempts to shield its members and supporters from being held accountable for alleged abuses of power are not limited to bringing the SPO under control either. President Moon and the DP’s silence on and apparent unwillingness to get to the bottom of the sexual harassment allegations directed at powerful heads of local government, including the highly influential Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon, is yet another example of their desire to make abuse of power and impunity the new norm in South Korea. 

In light of all this, it is hardly surprising that Koreans are starting to turn their backs on Moon and his party who were elected on a promise to end corruption and abuse of power – ills that have beset Korean governments since the country’s successful transition towards democracy in 1987. 

The alarming decline in the public’s support for Moon and the DP is a clear warning that Moon risks becoming a lame duck in the fourth year of his five-year presidency and in the lead-up to the April 2021 by-elections and the 2022 presidential election.

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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