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Barack Obama Cautions Against “Strongman Politics” in South Africa Speech

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Barack Obama

Barack Obama may not be able to dance like Nelson Mandela could. But like the famed South African president, he can pack an auditorium.

In a high-profile speech in Johannesburg, South Africa, honouring the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birth, Obama called for the global community to “embrace our common humanity” and warned against “the politics of fear and resentment.”

The speech was part of Barack Obama’s first trip to Africa since leaving the White House, a trip that has also included a visit to Kenya, where his father was born.

Barack Obama didn’t mention Trump by name but took aim at the administration’s policies such as the travel ban, saying that immigration policy should not be based on race, ethnicity, or religion.

He also warned against fake news, climate change denial, and anti-intellectualism. He cautioned against the rise of the “strongman.”

“I am not being an alarmist. I’m simply stating the facts,” he told a crowd of about 15,000. “Look around—strongman politics are ascendant suddenly, whereby elections and some pretence of democracy are maintained—the form of it—but those in powers seek to undermine every institution or norm that gives democracy meaning.”

The comment also alludes back to his famous quote from a 2009 trip to Ghana: “Africa doesn’t need strong men. It needs strong institutions.”

The continent has had some victories in this arena, perhaps most notably the ousting of the Gambia’s Yahya Jammeh. But several leaders continue to cling to power, most recently, South Sudan’s Salva Kiir.

Obama has long admired Mandela, whom he met in 2005 and often refers to as Madiba, Mandela’s clan name.

“Madiba’s light shone so brightly, even from that narrow Robben Island cell, that in the late 70s he could inspire a young college student on the other side of the world to reexamine his own priorities, could make me consider the small role I might play in bending the arc of the world towards justice,” Obama said in his speech, referring to Mandela’s 27 years in prison for attempting to overthrow South Africa’s apartheid regime.

Mandela’s popularity across the continent still exceeds Obama’s, although America’s first black president has inspired an avid following in several African countries, with streets, shops, and even ballpoint pens bearing his name.

Obama’s approval rating was 71 per cent in South Africa and 73 per cent in Kenya in 2015, according to Gallup research.

But in spite of his popularity, he has a complicated legacy in Africa.

While he continued the policies of his predecessors, including Bush’s HIV/AIDs relief program and Clinton’s trade preference program, he failed to produce new policies to rival their success, according to critics.

He has also been criticized for expanding military operations on the continent, including the use of drones.

Barack Obama’s trip to Africa included a stop in Kenya, where he met with President Uhuru Kenyatta and visited a nonprofit founded by his half-sister, Auma Obama.

And his Nelson Mandela speech comes at a tumultuous time in world politics—just one day after a controversial summit between President Trump and President Vladimir Putin.
Slate

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Chris Cash: The UK Parliamentary Researcher Accused of Spying for Beijing Authorities

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In March of this year, a British parliamentary researcher was arrested on suspicion of being a Chinese spy. The researcher, Chris Cash, was revealed to be a 28-year-old history graduate with links to many Tory MPs. He had been seen associating with senior Tories such as security minister Tom Tugendhat and Foreign Affairs Committee chair Alicia Kearns. Cash was believed to have been recruited as a sleeper agent while living and working in China and sent back to the UK to infiltrate political networks critical of the Beijing regime.

Cash was the leader of the China Research Group, a body advocating for a more hawkish British policy towards China. Co-founded by Tory ministers Tom Tugendhat and Neil O’Brien in April 2020, the group focused on industrial, technological, and foreign policy issues. The group’s website claimed that it aimed to provide informed knowledge on China and promote debate and fresh thinking about how Britain should respond to the rise of China.

Chris Cash was arrested in Edinburgh and released on bail until early October, along with another suspect. It is unclear how much access Cash had to foreign affairs intelligence or what kind of influence he may have held in Westminster. While he held a parliamentary pass, he did not have security clearance.

China has denied all accusations of involvement in an espionage scheme involving Cash, calling them malicious slander.

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Pope Sends Prayers to Comfort Morocco Earthquake Victims as Death Toll Surpasses 2,000

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On Sunday, Pope Francis expressed his prayers and support for the victims of the powerful earthquake that hit Morocco, resulting in the highest number of fatalities in over 60 years. During his Angelus message, he prayed for those injured and those who lost their lives, along with their families.

The Pope also expressed his gratitude towards the rescue workers who are working tirelessly to help the victims. He concluded by saying that they stand in solidarity with the people of Morocco during this difficult time.

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African Union’s Inclusion in G20: A Significant Acknowledgment of a Continent with 1 Billion Inhabitants

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The world’s most powerful economies, the G20, have welcomed the African Union (AU) as a permanent member, recognising Africa’s more than 50 countries as important players on the global stage. US President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi both expressed support for the AU’s permanent membership.

The AU has advocated for full membership for seven years and, until now, South Africa was the only African country in the G20. The AU represents a continent with a young population of 1.3 billion, which is set to double by 2050 and make up a quarter of the world’s population.

Africa’s 55 member states have long pushed for meaningful roles in global bodies, including the United Nations Security Council, and want reforms to the global financial system. The continent is increasingly attracting investment and political interest from global powers like China, Russia, Gulf nations, Turkey, Israel, and Iran. African leaders are challenging the framing of the continent as passive victim and want to be brokers instead.

They seek fairer treatment by financial institutions, delivery of rich countries’ long-promised $100 billion a year in climate financing for developing nations, and a global tax on fossil fuels. The AU’s full G20 membership will enable it to represent a continent that’s home to the world’s largest free trade area and abundant resources needed to combat climate change. The African continent has 60% of the world’s renewable energy assets and over 30% of the minerals key to renewable and low-carbon technologies.

African leaders want more industrial development closer to home to benefit their economies. Finding a common position among the AU’s member states, from economic powers to some of the world’s poorest nations, can be challenging, but Africa will need to speak with one voice to influence G20 decision-making. African leaders have shown their willingness to take collective action, as seen during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a high-profile G20 member, Africa’s demands will be harder to ignore.

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