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A group of military widows in Mali show their support for the armed forces during a demonstration.

Nicolas Remene/Le Pictorium/Cover Images

Why West Africa might see more coups

Guinea-Bissau had a failed coup attempt on Tuesday, less than two weeks after the military seized power in nearby Burkina Faso. In just a year and a half, West Africa has seen four successful coups and two failed bids.

While we’ve been seeing fewer armed takeovers of governments in the region in recent years, West Africa was once known as the continent’s “coup belt.” Do recent rumblings signal a comeback for military coups in the region?

Here are three reasons why more might be on the way.

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Captain Sidsore Kader Ouedraogo, centre, spokesman for the military government, with uniformed soldiers from the Patriotic Movement for Safeguard and Restoration or MPSR, announces on a television studio that they have taken power in Burkina Faso.

Radio Television du Burkina (RTB)/Handout via EYEPRESS

What We’re Watching: Burkina Faso coup, China’s “pure” internet, Thailand decriminalizes weed

Another coup in volatile West Africa. Monday’s military coup in Burkina Faso is the fourth armed takeover of a West African government in just 17 months. As in neighboring countries like Mali — which has had not one but two coups since 2020 — it will be hard for outsiders, like the African Union and the regional group ECOWAS to reverse this assault on an elected government. Why? For one thing, al-Qaeda and Islamic State-affiliated militant groups are winning battles with soldiers and killing civilians in barely governed parts of Burkina Faso. For another, more than 1.5 million of the country’s 21 million people have been forced from their homes since 2018. Street protests in major cities and mutinies in military bases have made clear in recent months just how unsustainable Burkina Faso’s security situation has become. Events in Mali, Niger, and Guinea have followed a worryingly similar pattern, and the Ivory Coast and Benin also face growing jihadist threats. We’ll be watching to see whether Burkina Faso’s junta has more success than the government it ousted in beating back jihadist attacks and restoring security to the country — and what happens if it doesn’t.

China's internet "purification" campaign. Xi Jinping doesn't like big celebrities — other than his famous singer wife — because they often show off their expensive lifestyles online, encouraging Chinese youth to worship money instead of the ruling Communist Party. That's why ahead of next week's Lunar New Year, the government plans to take down celebrity fan groups and censor influencers whom Xi regards as "unpatriotic." What's more, minors will no longer be allowed to become online influencers. The campaign is part of Xi's broader "common prosperity" vision to combat rising wealth inequality in China, which has prompted a surge of charitable giving by tycoons, especially tech billionaires. It has also canceled celebrities who flaunted their wealth or embarrassed the CCP by doing things like visiting a Tokyo shrine that holds the remains of World War II criminals, acquiring foreign citizenship, or using a surrogate to have a baby born in the US. Keep all of this in mind if you're an aspiring influencer in China.

Thai stoners rejoice. On Tuesday, Thailand became the first Asian country to decriminalize cannabis by dropping it from its list of banned substances. This is a very big deal for a country known for some of the world’s toughest anti-drug laws, including the death penalty for anyone caught with even small amounts of certain narcotics. Still, a tangle of laws related to cannabis leaves unclear whether recreational use and possession will be prosecuted. For now, the percentage of THC — the psychoactive compound in cannabis that makes you high — must be under 0.2 percent. In recent years, Thailand has relaxed its policy on so-called soft drugs, first legalizing medical marijuana and later kratom, a popular plant-based mild stimulant and painkiller. But the country still has a big problem with addiction to hard drugs — especially yaba (crazy pill), a highly addictive combination of methamphetamine and caffeine sourced from the lawless border areas of neighboring Myanmar.
Russia's Actions Towards Ukraine Are Strengthening NATO | World In :60 | GZERO Media

Russia's actions towards Ukraine are strengthening NATO

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week on Russian escalation of Ukraine strengthening NATO, omicron and the end of COVID-19, and on the most recent military coup in West Africa — Burkina Faso:

How will Russian escalation of Ukraine strengthen NATO?

Well, NATO over the last 10, 20 years even was increasingly beset by problems. You had the US unilateralism focused more on Asia. You had the old mission of defending against the Russians less relevant. The French wanting strategic autonomy. Macron leaning into that. Now, of course, Merkel's gone, too. But the proximate reality in danger of the Russians invading Ukraine, actually, as much as the Europeans are more dependent on the Russians for their economy and their gas, they're also more concerned about Russia in terms of national security. That has driven a lot of coordination, including announcements of a lot more troops and material from being sent by NATO states to Ukraine and also to defend NATO borders, like in the Baltic states as well as Bulgaria and Romania. I would argue that what Putin's been doing so far has had no impact greater than bolstering NATO, and it's one of the reasons why I'm skeptical that a full-on invasion is something that Putin has in the cards because that would frankly do more than anything else out there to make NATO, focused on Russia, a serious and going concern.

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrive for security talks at the Hotel President Wilson.

Russian Foreign Ministry/TASS

What We’re Watching: Ukraine diplomacy, India’s no-campaign election, Italian presidential conclave, Burkina Faso coup, Russia moves on crypto

Ukraine diplomatic blitz. The US and the UK have withdrawn some staff from their embassies in Kyiv, and NATO countries put more troops on standby amid an ongoing flurry of diplomacy to stop Russia from invading Ukraine. After playing defense for his boss over Joe Biden’s controversial remarks about Russia and Ukraine, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned of a severe response if any Russian forces cross the border. However, Blinken — who is trying to shore up a united front with Europe while keeping the Russian dialogue open — turned down Ukraine’s demand for preemptive sanctions against Russia. Also, the UK accused the Russians of planning to install a pro-Moscow leader in Kyiv. Meanwhile, on the ground both sides continue to beef up their military presence. While the first US weapons arrived in Ukraine, across the border Russia moved troops and equipment to Belarus, Ukraine’s northern neighbor and a staunch Moscow ally. Blinken is expected to continue talks this week with the Russians, but there’s an X factor: China. Xi Jinping, whom Vladimir Putin now calls his “old friend”, probably doesn’t want the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics to be marred by a hot war in Europe, so perhaps he’ll try to talk his pal out of an invasion.

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Hugues Fabrice Zango of Burkina Faso celebrates with his national flag after winning bronze at Tokyo 2020.

REUTERS/Aleksandra Szmigiel

Olympics corner: Independence Day bronze

Whenever Burkina Faso is in the news, it's often about how the country - no stranger to crisis - has got caught up in the crosshairs of horrific jihadist violence plaguing the Sahel.

But this week, the nation of 20 million was celebrating because Hugues Fabrice Zango won its first-ever Olympic medal after finishing third in the men's triple jump in Tokyo.

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What We're Watching: Argentina's abortion bill, Spain's vaccine registry, Burkina Faso's security push

Argentina's abortion debate: Argentina's Senate is set to vote on a landmark abortion bill that would allow elective abortions up to 14 weeks gestation, a major shift in the predominantly Catholic and socially conservative country. The abortion bill already passed the lower house of Congress (131 to 117 votes) because the center-left party of President Alberto Fernández, who backs the bill, holds a majority coalition. It's now waiting to be voted on in Argentina's upper house in what's expected to be a nail-biter, with several politicians remaining mum about how they intend to vote. Abortion is a flashpoint in Argentina, home to Pope Francis who has repudiated the bill, and if the law were to pass, the country would be one of just few Latin American countries to authorize elective abortions outside of cases of rape or if the mother's life is at risk. If there's a tie in the Senate — which some analysts anticipate — it will be up to Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who has flip-flopped on the abortion issue during her long political career, to cast the deciding vote. Abortion rights activists, meanwhile, are fired up, hoping that if the bill passes in Argentina, the cultural effects could reverberate throughout the region.

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The Other 2020 Elections | GZERO World

The other 2020 elections

Of course, the United States presidential election isn't the only major race on the world stage this year. Ian Bremmer takes a look at a number of highly important elections around the globe this year, including those in New Zealand, Israel and South Korea. One thing is clear - for most democratic political contests in 2020, no matter whose name is on the ballot, coronavirus is on voters' minds. Elections right now are as much a referendum on pandemic response as they are on the politicians running.

Watch the episode: What could go wrong in the US election? Rick Hasen on nightmare scenarios & challenges

Hard Numbers: Zuma's day in court, Burkina Faso’s civilian killings, the soaring cost of water in the US, and Trump's H1B visa hit

16: Former South African President Jacob Zuma appeared in court Tuesday to be tried on 16 corruption charges linked to his decade running the country. Zuma says the charges are part of a political "witch hunt," but his critics say the trial is a rare example of the country's judicial system actually holding people in power to account after years of government corruption.

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