As Senegal prepares for a pivotal presidential election on February 26, some citizens and outside observers are weighing the possibility of a popular uprising akin to last year’s Arab Spring revolts, with large numbers of Senegalese taking to the streets in defense of their political rights. Another, even more troubling scenario would entail a violent postelection standoff between the entrenched incumbent and forces loyal to his would-be successor, as occurred a year ago in Côte d’Ivoire. The fact that such outcomes are even being discussed illustrates how far Senegal has fallen under the stewardship of President Abdoulaye Wade, who is seeking a third term in office.
Freedom House is deeply concerned about the detention by Malaysian authorities of Saudi writer Hamza Kashgari, who fled Saudi Arabia to escape death threats for allegedly insulting the prophet Mohammad on Twitter. The 23-year-old Kashgari is at imminent risk of extradition to Saudi Arabia, where he faces charges of blasphemy that can carry the death penalty.
Freedom House is alarmed by the Ugandan parliament’s decision to reintroduce anti-gay legislation, and welcomes the Ugandan government’s move not to support the parliament’s decision. Rather than contributing to the persecution of sexual minorities in the country, parliament must make every effort to ensure the safety of all lesbians, gays, bisexual, and transgender persons (LGBT).
Freedom House condemns the arrest of Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) members, including leader Jenni Williams. She was arrested February 6 as she left a meeting with the Joint Operations, Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC) — a multi-partisan panel tasked with implementing the country’s Global Political Agreement.
Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet today with Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev to sign a strategic agreements focused on energy and raw materials. Merkel, whose country has been cultivating access to Kazakhstan’s natural resources for some time, is not likely to devote much of the discussion to her guest’s domestic troubles. Nazarbayev prefers to present Kazakhstan as an eager business partner, committed to its international obligations and open to gradual reforms, and foreign governments and companies often have an economic interest in accepting this image at face value. However, recent events suggest that popular frustration with the country’s authoritarian system is becoming more difficult to ignore.