STUDENTS FOR GLOBAL DEMOCRACY NEWS

Dream Deferred Essay Contest
Often we read the news daily without considering larger implications or how to change the negative elements in our world. HAMSA, or Hands Across the Middle East Support Alliance, is again holding an essay contest asking for submissions on a wide variety of issues related to changing the poor civil rights situation in the Middle East. The essay contest asks: What is your vision for a free Middle East?

Please visit the HAMSA website and please consider writing an essay.

SGD fully supports this essay contest due to its focus on how activists themselves can change the situation in the Middle East - rather than simply distressing over the lack of freedom in the region, the Dream Deferred Contest asks what actually can be done to create a better Middle East.
06 Nov 2006 12:02 pm by Charlie


Congo Elections; Iranian student dies in prison
For the last four days I have been trying to write a clear and concise post about the recent Congolese elections. I have come to realize this is an impossible task. I fear I cannot adequately explain the complex political situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a country ruined by war, disease, and institutional instability. While some facts are clear – Sunday’s multi-party elections were the first there in nearly a half-century – analyzing what the future may hold for this massive country is beyond my ability.

Below are some of the best articles written about the DRC elections, offering a more complete view of conditions there than I ever could. This is a momentous event for the Congo and for all of sub-Saharan Africa. I hope you take note:

Country profile: Democratic Republic of the Congo

“Congo Holds first Multiparty Election in 46 Years”

“Election is bitter for many in Congo”

“A long wait for democracy”

“Bad losers may be Congo election spoilers”

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Iranian student leader Akbar Mohammadi died in prison yesterday after a long hunger strike, the Los Angeles Times reported. The cause of death is unknown, though investigations are underway.

Mohammadi was arrested in 1999 following student-led anti-government protests, the largest opposition protests in Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution. According to the BBC, he was released from prison last year, but Iranian authorities recently arrested him again, prompting the hunger strike.

In a recent development, Mohammadi’s parents were detained today at Tehran airport after a trip abroad, the BBC reported. His father has been critical of the way the government treated his son, accusing authorities of torture, the BBC said.
01 Aug 2006 12:49 pm by Graham


Students on hunger strike in Azerbaijan
Sixty-five Azerbaijani students are staging a hunger strike in the Independent University of Azerbaijan auditorium to protest the government’s decision to close the school, according to the Eurasia Daily Monitor.

The government closed the university because it was operating without a license, according to a government spokesman quoted by the Daily Monitor. In response, twenty students began a hunger strike at the beginning of June, the second hunger staged by Azerbaijani university students this year. The original twenty have since been joined by others, including parents.

The university closure is yet another example of the deteriorating situation in Azerbaijan. Democracy, long challenged by authoritarian president Ilham Aliyev, is finding few supporters from within the government. But as the Daily Mirror observed, the authorities may be contributing to their own demise. An increasingly alienated youth population with the courage to stage such extreme forms of protest will certainly pose a serious threat to the government if positive changes are not made soon.
06 Jul 2006 08:29 pm by Graham


Dictators masquerading as democrats hold back political liberty in Africa
By Richard Lukwago
SGD Uganda

Image is everything. Democracy has taken root in Africa. Multi-party political pluralism is thriving in many African countries, or so it seems, emerging as the paramount feature of African political developments. Barely a decade ago virtually the entire continent laboured under oppressive autocratic regimes -- many of them military. The changes between then and now amount to quite an upheaval in African politics. But compelling as the slogan of democracy is, not all African countries are moving democratically in the same direction -- or at the same pace. African politics is now suffused by big differences in the degree of democratic reform between various countries.

...Click 'Read More' to read the rest of the article.
05 Jun 2006 12:48 am by Graham


Zimbabwe’s Economy Grows Worse
Inflation continues to soar towards 1,000 percent in Zimbabwe, where 70 to 80 percent of the population is unemployed and many cannot afford basic food and household goods. The New York Times reported today that the price of toilet paper per sheet has reached $417 (in Zimbabwean Dollars) – an entire roll costs over $145,000. The lowest bank note in circulation is $500. Soon the currency may be more valuable in the bathroom than in the markets.
02 May 2006 01:34 pm by Graham


New PM promises constitutional assembly in Nepal
An interesting article posted on the BBC World Web site today related the possibility of democratic change in Swaziland to the recent unrest in Nepal. Swaziland's King Mswati is considered one of the world's worst dictators and will soon celebrate his twenthieth year on the throne. His kingdom is the last African absolute monarchy - but how long will it last?

In case you missed the story, click .

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April 26, 2006 Post:

Nepal's Maoist rebels announced they would end the blockade of Kathmandu ahead of Friday's Parliamentary session, the first in almost four years. The announcement came after incoming Prime Minister G.P. Koirala promised to hold elections for a constitutional assembly. The Maoists have demanded the constitution be changed and the monarchy's future role be diminished. Rebel leader Prachanda vowed to re-impose the blockade if such an assembly were not formed.

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April 25, 2006 Post:

Nepalese King Gyanendra announced yesterday he would give in to the demands of hundreds of thousands of protesters and restore the democratically elected parliament he dissolved in 2002. In a televised speech the king acknowledged the power of 19 days of demonstrations organized by the seven-party alliance and apologized for the deaths of 14 protesters killed by government forces.

The seven-party alliance announced the end to the demonstrations and nation-wide strike that has virtually shutdown the country for over two weeks. After the announcement thousands took to the streets to celebrate the news. The democratic opposition also announced former Prime Minister G.P. Koirala is their choice for the new premier, according to the BBC .

But the news out of Kathmandu isn’t all cheery. The King in his speech did not address the Maoist demand that the future of the monarchy be decided by a nation-wide referendum. The Maoists said the King’s concessions were simply a “ploy” designed to maintain his “autocratic monarchy.”

The following are excerpts for the King Gyanendra’s speech. Translation provided by United We Blog:
quote:

Convinced that the source of State Authority and Sovereignty of the Kingdom of Nepal is inherent in the people of Nepal and cognizant of the spirit of the ongoing people’s movement as well as to resolve the on-going violent conflict and other problems facing the country according to the road map of the agitating Seven Party Alliance, we, through this Proclamation, reinstate the House of Representatives which was dissolved on 22 May 2002… We call upon the Seven Party Alliance to bear the responsibility of taking the nation on the path to national unity and prosperity, while ensuring permanent peace and safeguarding multiparty democracy…

…We are confident that this House will contribute to the overall welfare of Nepal and the Nepalese people…

…We are confident that the nation will forge ahead towards sustainable peace, progress, full-fledged democracy and national unity.

26 Apr 2006 11:27 am by Graham


New Prime Minister promises constitutional assembly in Nepal
Nepal's Maoist rebels announced they would end the blockade of Kathmandu ahead of Friday's Parliamentary session, the first in almost four years. The announcement came after incoming Prime Minister G.P. Koirala promised to hold elections for a constitutional assembly. The Maoists have demanded the constitution be changed and the monarchy's future role be diminished. Rebel leader Prachanda vowed to re-impose the blockade if such an assembly were not formed.

Nepalese King Gyanendra announced yesterday he would give in to the demands of hundreds of thousands of protesters and restore the democratically elected parliament he dissolved in 2002. In a televised speech the king acknowledged the power of 19 days of demonstrations organized by the seven-party alliance and apologized for the deaths of 14 protesters killed by government forces.

The seven-party alliance announced the end to the demonstrations and nation-wide strike that has virtually shutdown the country for over two weeks. After the announcement thousands took to the streets to celebrate the news. The democratic opposition also announced former Prime Minister G.P. Koirala is their choice for the new premier, according to the BBC.

But the news out of Kathmandu isn’t all cheery. The King in his speech did not address the Maoist demand that the future of the monarchy be decided by a nation-wide referendum. The Maoists said the King’s concessions were simply a “ploy” designed to maintain his “autocratic monarchy.”

The following are excerpts for the King Gyanendra’s speech. Translation provided by United We Blog:
quote:

Convinced that the source of State Authority and Sovereignty of the Kingdom of Nepal is inherent in the people of Nepal and cognizant of the spirit of the ongoing people’s movement as well as to resolve the on-going violent conflict and other problems facing the country according to the road map of the agitating Seven Party Alliance, we, through this Proclamation, reinstate the House of Representatives which was dissolved on 22 May 2002… We call upon the Seven Party Alliance to bear the responsibility of taking the nation on the path to national unity and prosperity, while ensuring permanent peace and safeguarding multiparty democracy…

…We are confident that this House will contribute to the overall welfare of Nepal and the Nepalese people…

…We are confident that the nation will forge ahead towards sustainable peace, progress, full-fledged democracy and national unity.

25 Apr 2006 11:29 am by Graham


Nepal’s King promises to relinquish executive power
Nepalese King Gyanendra announced today he would return “power to the people,” after 16 days of sometimes-violent protests, CNN reporte. The King made the announcement after a second day of massive rallies in Kathmandu. He asked the seven-party opposition to announce a candidate for prime minister, promising to step down as Nepal’s chief executive.

But many remain skeptical that the King’s announcement will produce significant changes. No date has been set for elections.United We Blog, a pro-democracy blog created by Nepalese journalists, criticized the speech:
quote:

Until such name is fixed, the king has declared that he is clinging to the power. This is an utter deception. He is not willing to give up the power yet. This is only a cosmetic change and no one should believe in his words.


I’ll continue to update this ongoing thread of posts as additional news becomes available.

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April 20, 2006 Post:

I will keep sandwiching these posts on top of each other. The news out of Nepal changes almost hourly, but I would like to give some context (read below) to the developing stories. In the latest news, the BBC, the Bangkok Post, and the International Herald Tribune all report that security forces killed three people and injured at least 40 during a mass march towards the capital. Estimates of the number of demonstrators range from 30-100,000. The protests were in defiance of a government imposed 18-hour curfew.

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April 19, 2006 Post:

The BBC now reports ten people have been killed in Nepal by security forces. The government announced an 18-hour curfew ahead of a planned protest rally and warned that anyone caught breaking the curfew will be shot.

Earlier in the day, the BBC reported that government forces herded a crowd of demonstrators towards a stadium and then opened fire - another dangerous sign that the government feels it is losing control. SGD hopes a peaceful solution to this conflict can be reached.

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April 17, 2006 Post:

It seems the Nepalese pro-democracy movement has turned a corner. It’s day 12, and the nation-wide protests against King Gyanendra’s autocratic rule are building steam as more and more average Nepalese join the demonstrations. From government workers to the disabled, ordinary citizens are working together to bring positive change to Nepal. While tainted by some violence (and hurt by violent government forces – a fifth protester was killed today, according to the BBC), the movement has achieved what pro-democracy forces in Belarus could not: sustained protests that involve ordinary citizens.

Thirty-year old merchant Pramod Poudel told the New York Times that he once believed King Gyanendra would bring peace and prosperity to Nepal. He admitted that he had not thought of joining pro-democracy demonstrations until recently.

“People are realizing that the king will not deliver until we take to the streets,” Poudel said. “Now it’s high time for people like myself.”

While it is hard to compare such diverse countries, Nepal nonetheless should be a valuable lesson for Belarusian democrats. There were many reasons why the Minsk protests never swelled to Kiev-like numbers, but one thing is for certain: many average Belarusians were not convinced ousting Lukashenko was worth the risks.

Milinkevich and others must convince the rural populations they are better off without Luka. Of course this is easier said than done in such a repressive environment. But they may have received help from an unexpected source. Russia recently announced it would end Belarusian gas subsidies. Soon, Minsk will have to pay European prices for natural gas. When Belarus’s state-run economy inevitably starts to sour as gas prices soar, will the streets of Minsk start to look similar to the streets of Kathmandu?
21 Apr 2006 10:29 am by Graham


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