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What We're Watching: "Apocalyptic" unrest in Senegal, Biden's Afghanistan plan, post-COVID tourism

Supporters of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, who was indicted and released on bail under judicial supervision, attend a demonstration in front of the court in Dakar, Senegal March 8, 2021

"Apocalyptic" protests in Senegal: At least five people have been killed in clashes with police as protests over poverty, unemployment, and the jailing of a popular politician rock the West African nation of Senegal. Ousmane Sonko, who heads the opposition Movement to Defend Democracy (M2D) and is considered the most viable challenger to current president Mackie Sall, was accused of rape in February and arrested last week. Sonko says the charges are a politically motivated attempt to remove him from politics before the 2024 presidential election. His supporters immediately hit the streets, voicing a range of grievances including joblessness and poverty. Though youth unemployment has fallen over the past decade, it still exceeds eight percent and close to two-thirds of the country's 16 million people are under the age of 25. As Sonko supporters pledge to continue protests this week, Senegal's head of conflict resolution says the country is "on the verge of apocalypse."

Biden's Afghanistan roadmap: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken wants to speed up peace negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government, according to a new memo. In a letter addressed to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Blinken proposed a peace summit in Turkey to finalize details of a plan under which new elections would follow the installation of a transitional government. The missive comes just weeks after intra-Afghan peace talks resumed in Qatar after a hiatus. The Biden administration is still playing coy on whether it plans to honor a Trump administration commitment to withdraw all remaining US troops in Afghanistan by May 1. Blinken has not ruled out a full troop drawdown by that date (2,500 US troops are still in the country nearly 20 years after the US first invaded), but skeptics warn that a hasty withdrawal before all details have been ironed out — including protections for women and minority groups — could lay the groundwork for a violent Taliban takeover.

Tourism post COVID: The pandemic has clobbered the global tourism industry, inflicting a crippling blow on many economies that rely heavily on outside visitors to stay afloat. But as tourist hotspots look ahead to life after all the testing and social distancing requirements of COVID, some overcrowded destinations are starting to think about ways that post-pandemic tourism can be more sustainable, less disruptive to everyday life, and healthier for the whole economy. Part of that, as the US island paradise of Hawaii has found, is about better-controlling the flow of tourists to specific destinations, but it's also about crafting a tourism strategy that is as responsive to the needs of locals as it is to the needs of visitors (about two-thirds of Hawaiians now say they don't want tourists to return, according to a recent poll). As economies around the world look to bounce back after the worst year in decades, tourist destinations will have hard decisions to make.


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