What We're Watching & What We 're Ignoring
WHAT WE'RE WATCHING
Joseph Kabila's Intentions – The president of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) says he will leave office after elections on 23 December. Kabila has been in power since 2001, when he took over after his father's murder. He was supposed to step down in 2016 but has repeatedly postponed holding a presidential election.
The upcoming vote pits Kabila's former interior minister, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, who is currently under EU sanctions for human rights abuses, against opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi and businessman Martin Faulu Madidi. The sprawling resource-rich country has not had a peaceful transition of power since winning independence from Belgium in 1960. Mr. Kabila has left open the possibility of returning to power in 2023, which the constitution permits.
Shops that sell construction clothing in Cairo – As the seventh anniversary of the Tahrir Square revolution approaches, the Egyptian government has quietly cracked down on the sale of reflective yellow vests. Why? The authorities are worried about the potential for copycat protests inspired by the "gilets jaunes" movement in France. It's been decades since people thought of Cairo's belle epoque downtown district as "Paris Along the Nile" – and after the recent surge of violent protests in the French capital, Egyptian strongman Abdel Fattah el-Sissi would just as soon keep it that way.
WHAT WE'RE IGNORING
Russian bombers in Venezuela – On Monday, a pair of Russian bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons landed at an airbase outside of Caracas. The US, which just last week made a rare reconnaissance flight over Ukraine in a direct dig at Russia, won't like the display of force on its proverbial doorstep in the Caribbean. This looks like a simple tit-for-tat by Russian President Vladimir Putin aimed at shoring up a struggling ally. Maduro walked away from a trip to Moscow last week claiming to have secured $6 billion of financial assistance for Venezuela's struggling economy and 600,000 tons of food aid. Whether those promises materialize is a much more important issue for Venezuela than a temporary flyby.
British MPs behaving badly – A Labour MP was kicked out of the UK's House of Commons on Monday after he grabbed the ceremonial mace symbolizing the royal authority required for Parliament to meet and pass laws during a heated debate over Brexit. We're ignoring this for two reasons: first, it's been done before. Second, because the MP in question handed it back without a real fight. If you're going to make a spectacle of yourself by stealing a 400-year-old ceremonial club, you should at least give it a symbolic swing or two to make things interesting.