What We're Watching: Tanzania's new leader, big global economic  recovery (for some), more bloodshed in Darfur

Tanzania's new President Samia Suluhu Hassan takes oath of office following the death of her predecessor John Pombe Magufuli at State House in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania March 19, 2021

Tanzania's U-turn on COVID, press freedom: Tanzania's new President Samia Suluhu Hassan announced on Tuesday that she'll appoint a committee to determine whether the country should start responding to the pandemic, though she stopped short of implementing any sweeping changes. While it's late in the game more than a year since the pandemic was declared, it's still a big deal considering that her late predecessor John Magufuli, who she served under as deputy for six years, was a COVID denier who shunned masks and vaccines, refused to implement pandemic-related restrictions, and declared Tanzania virus-free thanks to prayers from its citizens. (Magufuli died last month, officially from heart complications but it's widely suspected he contracted COVID-19). Hassan, who has been criticized for embracing her former boss' authoritarian tendencies at times, also plans to lift Magufuli's bans on critical media outlets, another major shift for a nation where journalists are often prosecuted over social media posts critical of the government, and citizens are regularly denied access to independent sources of information. We're watching to see if Hassan delivers on her promise of change for Tanzania.


Global economy set to rebound big: The global economy is set to grow by 6 percent this year, the IMF now says, representing the biggest output surge since the 1970s. Much of this anticipated growth is attributed to big government stimulus packages pumped into developed economies like the US, the EU and Japan in recent months. In the United States, the world's largest economy, many economists estimate that the recently passed $1.9 trillion relief package will spur economic expansion by a whopping 6.4 percent in 2021, with the US set to join China as the only two economies to achieve GDP growth exceeding pre-pandemic levels. But the economic recovery will be vastly uneven. In some emerging market economies where governments don't have the means to pump huge amounts of cash into the economy, and a lack of travel has decimated tourism-reliant communities, the post-COVID economic rebound could take much longer, the IMF says. This trend is compounded by sluggish vaccine rollouts in many places because of vaccine hoarding by wealthy countries. Still, there is no hard-and-fast rule: In large economies where the virus continues to spread like wildfire, like in Brazil, the economy continues to teeter.

State of emergency in West Darfur: Last fall, a peace treaty was signed between Sudan's transitional civilian-military government and some Darfur rebel groups, raising hopes of a new peaceful era after decades of bloodshed in Sudan. Then, the UN-African Union peacekeeping mission announced it would withdraw from West Darfur (the Sudanese enclave that borders Chad) after 13 years of occupation. But in recent months, violence has continued unabated there, prompting the Sudanese government to declare a state of emergency. Over the past few days, at least 50 people were killed in violent clashes between ethnic groups, with projectiles hitting a UN compound and a hospital. Disagreements between Arabs and non-Arab herders over farming rights and water access, coupled with other ethnic tensions and easy access to cheap weapons, have created a combustible situation in conflict-ridden Darfur. Since 2003, when Sudan's then-President Omar al-Bashir waged a deadly crackdown to quash an ethnic revolt, some 300,000 people have been killed and millions displaced. As violence surges, hopes of a long-sought peace diminish.

This week, the market value of Tencent, China's biggest video game company, nosedived after a state media outlet suggested that online gaming was as addictive and destructive as opium. Tencent immediately pledged to cap the number of hours people can play, and to keep minors off its platforms.

It's the latest example of a months-long crackdown on major Chinese technology firms that until recently were viewed as some of the world's most powerful and successful companies, as well as a source of national pride. Beijing's about-face on its own tech titans could have big implications for China, and beyond.

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Equestrian jumpers, and their horses, are disciplined species. They don't appreciate surprises very much.

But many participants were caught off guard during this week's individual jumping qualifiers in Tokyo by a very daunting statue of a sumo wrestler on the hurdle course (which is dotted with statues paying homage to traditional Japanese culture, like geisha kimonos, cherry blossoms, and taiko drums).

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For Dick Pound, the longest serving member of the International Olympic Committee, protesting at the Games is fine — as long as it doesn't "interfere" with the competition itself or awards ceremonies. The Olympics, in his view, are an oasis of calm in the middle of an increasingly tense world, and "we shouldn't be spoiling that by pointing out the obvious , which is that there are social and political problems." Watch his interview with Ian Bremmer on the latest episode of GZERO World on US public television.

India's rape problem: Hundreds of protesters have flocked to the streets of New Delhi for four days straight after a 9-year old girl was raped and murdered in a small village outside the capital while going to fetch water for her family. Some demonstrators burned effigies of India's PM Narendra Modi, saying that the government has not done enough — or anything, really — to address the country's abysmal rape problem: there were more than 32,000 rapes recorded in 2019, certainly a vast undercount given the stigma associated with reporting sexual assaults in India. The scourge of sexual violence against women and girls in India was brought to light in 2012 when a 23-year-old woman was gang raped and murdered while traveling on a bus in the nation's capital, prompting international outrage. Four men have been arrested in connection with this week's attack, though they have not been charged. The city of New Delhi, meanwhile, has ordered an inquiry to probe events surrounding the young girl's death, though Indians who have been sounding the alarm on violence against women for decades aren't expecting much to come of it.

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It's been 365 days since twin blasts at a Beirut port decimated Lebanon's capital. More than 200 people were killed and some 7,000 were injured, yet accountability has been scarce. There is ample evidence that multiple Lebanese officials knew that ammonium nitrate was being improperly stored at the port. Four high-ranking politicians, including former PM Hassan Diab, have been charged by a Lebanese judge, but they all refuse to cooperate with the ongoing investigation.

Since then, Lebanon's already-dire economic and financial crises have only intensified. The Lebanese pound, the national currency, has plummeted, losing 90 percent of its value since 2019, when the country's economic crisis erupted. And more than 50 percent of the population is now living below the poverty line.

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20,200: As the super contagious delta variant continues to spread, Thailand is now a COVID hotspot, recording more than 20,200 new COVID cases Wednesday, the highest daily toll since the pandemic began. Authorities imposed new restrictions in Bangkok and other provinces as the vaccine rollout remains sluggish; just 5.8 percent of Thailand's 66 million people are fully vaccinated.

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University of British Colombia professor Edward Slingerland says drinking makes us feel good and has historically encouraged socializing. But there are negative implications, as well. We now have the problem of "distillation and isolation": getting as much booze as you want and drinking alone, especially during the pandemic. There's a gender issue too: the "bro culture" associated with alcohol can exclude and even be dangerous for women. Not all regions have the same problems, though, as drinking habits vary widely. Watch Slingerland's interview with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

Watch the episode: The (political) power of alcohol

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