Catalan leader cozy in Belgium, lieutenants walk ‘free’

BARCELONA, SPAIN – OCTOBER 26: Catalan President Carles Puigdemont makes a statement at the Catalan Government building Generalitat de Catalunya on October 26, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

Ousted Catalonia president Charles Puigdemont is officially in exile in Brussels. And while initially defiant, he now says that he will cooperate with Madrid’s justice system but from overseas. Charges range from rebellion, sedation and embezzlement of public funds in conducting an illegal referendum and could see him, alongside other sanctioned members of the deposed regional government, face up to 30 years in prison if found guilty

Meanwhile, in separate proceedings, members of the dissolved parliament who had been among those charged were allowed to walk away free after proceedings were adjourned with the prosecution seeking more time to prepare. The Supreme Court however directed that they be placed under police surveillance. Tougher rulings were, however, handed to ministers in the ousted regional government with all but 1 being remanded in custody without bail pending investigation. Separatists say that the charges are politically motivated.

A messiah’s retirement

Still on secession politics: Masoud Barzani, the President of Iraq’s Kurdish region, resigned in the aftermath of a referendum on independence that led to Iraqi government forces taking back control of key oilfields and the city of Kirkuk. Barzani has led the region since its establishment in 2005 and has maintained a high level of popularity until recently. Kurdish people enjoyed unprecedented autonomy for years under the Kurdistan Regional Government, until Barzani refused to back down from holding an independence referendum last month. The referendum backfired, triggering a regional crisis and drawing widespread international condemnation

Supreme inconsistencies?

Liberia’s Supreme Court halted a presidential run- off election that was to be held on November 7. The delay is due to pending investigations into alleged corruption at the electoral commission. The two frontrunners, former football superstar George Weah and current vice president Joseph Boakai were due to face off with none of them having achieved the constitutional required majority in the first round. Third-placed candidate Charles Bromstine had filed a complaint over what he termed as widespread irregularities during the poll. Liberia’s Chief justice ruled that Liberia’s electoral commission couldn’t conduct the polls until they are cleared of all allegations.

While the Supreme Court’s boldness in halting the process could be said to have been inspired by the Supreme Court of Kenya’s recent precedent setting decision to annul the August 8 elections, this latest move to postpone the poll is in stark contrast to the Supreme Court’s reaction in similar circumstances where it failed to pronounce itself on a John Harun Mwau’s petition citing a lack of quorum.

Independence could be football bad for Barca

What will happen to Barcelona if Catalonia secedes? Football analysts say the only way the four-time European champions can remain in the Spanish league following secession is if amendments are made to the country’s laws.

According to Guillem Balague, a Spanish football journalist the sports law and the regulations will have to be changed in the Spanish parliament for Barcelona to be accepted in the Spanish league.

“There is no other way for Barcelona to be part of the league after independence” he says.

With a stadium that seats close to 100,000 fans, and millions of supporters around the world, it’s feasible that Barca could also be offered a place in another of Europe’s top leagues. Geographically, France and its Ligue 1 would seem the likely option. But again, that discounts potential animosity from native French clubs, and is assuming financial gains would trump any opposition to the plan.

With its money and worldwide following, there are even speculations of a possible move to the English Premier League (EPL). Experts, however, believe the Catalan team’s top priority would be to stay in the Spanish league.

The creation of a ‘European Super League’ – touted by some – would appear to solve these problems for Barca, but is equally shrouded in debate.

Nevertheless Keeping Barcelona in La Liga would seem to be in the interest of the league and the club’s archrival, Real Madrid, said Balague.

“In the longer term, La Liga without Barcelona would be conceivably too damaging to both the club and the league,” said leading sports correspondent Lee Wellings. Other Catalan teams, RCD Español and Girona – both in Spain’s first division – also find themselves in the same boat as Barcelona.

Togolese can tell the president off, but only on set days

In protests that began in August, the Togolese have been demanding a reinstatement of presidential term limits. In September, the opposition in parliament protested the introduction of a Bill that would have limited presidential terms but would exempt the current president who is already in his third term. The Bill failed and government called for a constitutional referendum only for protests to erupt again, leaving scores dead. To reign in the spiraling crisis, the Togolese government also moved the UN has called on government to heed to the calls of the people while ECOWAS, which President Gnassingbe has urged to set a date for the referendum. Many, however, say that they do not want it, as they fear manipulation. Meanwhile, as protests continue, government has put conditions on where and when protests will be held – just like in Kenya. During weekdays, it has directed that protests be only held in one specific place, as a rally, while the normal marches are reserved for the weekends.

In China, journalism must be a weapon for the State

China’s Internet censors announced new regulations aimed at curbing the spread of “illegal information”. Staff at news websites will be required to undergo training in “the Marxist view of journalism”. Those who fail to promote a positive and healthy online culture face dismissal.

Up for a downgrade

Global rating agency Moody’s has warned of possible downgrade of Kenya’s credit scores citing pressure from the country’s rising debts. The agency said it had placed Kenya’s B1 rating on review for downgrade due to persistent deficits has high borrowing costs continue to drive government indebtedness higher among other factors. Moody’s expects that Kenya’s debt burden, which had risen to 56.4% of the GDP as of June- up from 40.5 % five years ago, will continue to rise due to persistently high primary deficits and borrowing costs.

Burundians must marry by December 31 or else…

Burundi’s government wants couples living together to register their marriages. That means that they must have a church or state sanctioned wedding before the end of the year. According to the government, this will create a more moral society, insisting that a legal document recognizing a marriage helps protect women and children especially on issues such as inheritance. Burundi is one of the world’s poorest countries with the poverty rate expected to rise to 80% in 2018, according to the World Bank. Because of this, many say they can’t just afford to marry, while others view the move as an authoritarian government’s latest intrusion into personal space. They say that government shouldn’t dictate when and how Burundians should marry.

Why Facebook is likely to get more expensive

Executives from Facebook, Google and Twitter were grilled in Congress about why they had not spotted the political adverts from Russian provocateurs placed on their websites during last year’s United States Presidential election. The politicians demanded more action from the social media giants to monitor such activity. Mark Zuckerberg (who was not at the hearings) said he was dead serious about rooting out bad content but warned that Facebook costs would rise sharply as a result. He was speaking as Facebook reported a year on year 79% jump in profit for the third quarter.

43 reasons boycott impact will be stifled

The trending topic in Kenya right now is the opposition’s move to push for reform by adopting a civil disobedience strategy. Their actions, especially that to boycott the products of perceived pro- government providers, have been received their fair share of criticism. But while they could be genuine, and while it’s also true that, historically, civil disobedience has been a formidable strategy for reformers, its success has been confined to jurisdictions where the society is sufficiently homogeneous (where most people share an origin, belong to the same linguistic group, confess the same problems and are equally tired). Where it is as stratified as ours, one can trust there will always be a great number of people playing for the other team which waters down its impact thereby defeating its whole purpose. Civil disobedience in Kenya is akin to planning a strike in a class where half of the students are prefects and good boys. This division is also the reason why we cannot have our own version of the Arab spring.

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